Text: Alexander Hammond, “A Reconstruction of Poe’s 1833 Tales of the Folio Club, Preliminary Notes,” from Poe Studies, vol. V, no. 2, December 1972, pp. 25-32


[page 25:]

A Reconstruction of Poe’s 1833
Tales of the Folio Club
Preliminary Notes

University of California, Los Angeles


The enigmas presented by Tales of the Folio Club have long been a major problem for the student of Poe’s early fiction. Four decades have elapsed since T. O. Mabbott and James Southall Wilson did their pioneering work on this never-published collection of tales [“On Poe’s ‘Tales of the Folio Club,’ “Sewanee Review, 36 (1928), 171-176, and “The Devil Was In It,” American Mercury, 24 (1931), 215-220], but basic questions posed by their studies still remain largely unanswered. Which of Poe’s early tales were actually Folio Club stories, to which of the various forms of Tales of the Folio Club did these stories belong, and what role did they play in the literary club context? What were the targets of Poe’s satire in this collection? What was the character of the collection’s evolution from its original eleven-story state — the version Poe offered to the New-England Magazine in May 1833 under the title “Eleven Tales of the Arabesque” — into the seventeen-story form he was describing in letters of 1836? What was the relationship between this evolution and the history of the book’s treatment at the hands of publishers? And what was the aesthetic character of the work as a whole: was it a unified book in which individual stories were integral parts of a coherently organized structure; or was it merely a casual assembly of miscellaneous, separately conceived stories mechanically linked together by the literary club framework? At present I am preparing a critical study of Poe’s Folio Club stories that attempts to answer these questions; central to my argument is the claim that the contents, ordering, and overall design of the eleven-story version of Tales of the Folio Club (that form of the collection for which an introduction and a fragment of one tale survive in manuscript) can be recovered with considerable certainty on the basis of available bibliographic and textual evidence. What follows below is a brief, informal outline of this reconstruction; in order to conserve space, the documentation here has been restricted to a necessary minimum. [column 2:]

The Folio Club Introduction.

The manuscript prologue to the eleven-story collection [now in the Houghton Library at Harvard; reproduced somewhat inaccurately in The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (1902; reprint ed., New York: AMS Press, 1965) II xxxvi-xxxix] was obviously designed for that form of Tales of the Folio Club outlined in Poe’s letter of 4 May 1833 to the editors of the New-England Magazine: the stories in this work “are supposed to be read at table by eleven members of a literary club, and are followed by the remarks of the company upon each. These remarks are intended as a burlesque upon criticism.” The prologue describes this club’s organization: the membership is limited to eleven by its constitution; monthly meetings are held over dinner and wine at which each member must submit a “Short Prose Tale” of his own composition; and each meeting ends with a vote to select the best and worst contributions of the evening, the winner of this competition to assume the office of President, the loser the obligation of providing food and drink at the next month’s meeting. John C. French [“Poe’s Literary Baltimore,” Maryland Historical Magazine, 32 (1937), 101-112] notes the striking similarities between this club and the Delphian Club, a Baltimore literary group founded in 1816 and probably still meeting at the home of William Gwynn during Poe’s years in that city. An examination of the Delphian Club minutes in the Maryland Historical Society convinces me that Poe had access to them, probably through his acquaintance with Gwynn, a Baltimore editor and lawyer who knew Poe’s father, employed one of his cousins, and aided the young author during his efforts to publish “Al Aaraaf” [see Floyd Stovall, Edgar Poe the Poet (Charlottesville: Univ. Press of Virginia, 1969), pp. 3334]. The Delphians were, I think, an immediate but ultimately minor target for Poe’s satire in this collection.

As we know from Poe’s other comments on this collection, the Folio Club member who narrates the prologue has his tale voted worst, “demurs from the general judgment, seizes the . . . M.SS. upon the table, and, rushing from the house, determines to appeal, by printing the whole, from the decision of the club, to that of the public.” The prologue’s membership list obviously doubles as an abbreviated table of contents: since the first named on the list, Mr. Snap, reads his tale first, one reasonably expects the remaining club members to present their compositions in sequence. The narrator’s tale would therefore be last in the collection, immediately followed by the criticism and vote against it. These events are the inciting factors in this character’s theft of the manuscripts, and Poe would logically group them together at the end to provide a strong climax for the narrative framework [page 26:] of this book.

The frame story with its provision for “burlesque” commentary between each tale, the characterizations and type-names of the Folio Club members, and the overall tone of the prologue clearly imply that the collection has a satiric purpose, an intention immediately signaled by its epigraph from Butler’s Hudibras [for the context of Poe’s quotation, see Hudibras, ed. John Wilders (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967), pp. 22-23]. Tales of the Folio Club is a classic example of what Northrop Frye calls a Menippean satire, featuring as it does a satiric symposium of intellectual types gathered together at a banquet and, as will be seen, an encyclopedic panorama of popular modes of contemporary fiction. Within this anatomy of fiction, the Folio Club itself, with its restricted membership and its elaborate rituals of internal criticism and competitive rankings, becomes a satiric representation of the literary establishment that Poe condemns in his “Letter to B —— ” (1831, 1835): “You are aware of the great barrier in the path of an American writer. He is read, if at all, in preference to the combined and established wit of the world. I say established; for it is with literature as with law or empire — an established name is an estate in tenure, or a throne in possession.” The Folio Club contains a good sampling of “the combined and established wit” of Poe’s literary world.

Finally, the type-names and characterizations of the Folio Club members prepare the reader for an indirect satiric method in their stories, the style and attitudes of which would presumably reflect the earnestness with which these figures adhere to their specified hobbyhorses. As will be seen, Poe is particularly sensitive to his structure’s demand for consistency between a club member’s literary identity and the point of view in his tale. In general, he chooses to make the narrative voice in these stories virtually identical with their Folio Club author’s and to control their satiric implications through dramatic irony and hidden quizzes.

The Eleven Folio Club Stories.

From convincing external evidence, we know that five of Poe’s early tales — ”Epimanes” (“Four Beasts in One”), “Slope — A Fable” (“Silence — A Fable”), “The Visionary” (“The Assignation”), “MS. Found in a Bottle,” and “Lionizing” — were almost certainly parts of the eleven-story collection of 1833; the remaining six stories must be identified from among those tales whose composition can reasonably be dated before May of that year. The type-names and characterizations of the Folio Club characters, the physical design and pagination of the surviving manuscript fragments, and the overall consistency of the collection once it is assembled are, of course, the primary grounds on which a rationale for linking a story to a Folio Club author must rest. In the following outline, I assume that my indebtedness to the informal efforts to reconstruct this collection by Wilson, Mabbott, and William Bittner [for the last, see Poe: A Biography (London: Elek Books, 1962), pp. 288-292] is self-evident. My thinking on many of the problems presented by these materials, I am grateful to acknowledge, has been aided by the criticism of Professor Richard P. Benton. [column 2:]

I.”Mr. Snap, the President, who is a very lank man with a hawk nose, and was formerly in the service of the Down-East Review.”

“Raising the Wind; or Diddling Considered as One of the Exact Sciences,” Philadelphia Saturday Courier (1843).

As John C. French demonstrates, Mr. Snap is a caricature of John Neal, the most famous literary Yankee of the time, a member of the Delphian Club during his early career in Baltimore, and the editor of a “Down-East Review,” The Yankee (later, The Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette}, from 1828 to 1829. I think Claude Richard correctly identifies Mr. Snap’s contribution to the Folio Club as “Raising the Wind” [“Poe and the Yankee Hero,” Mississippi Quarterly, 21 (1968), 93-109], and his excellent discussion of the relationship between the tale and Neal’s literary career needs no review here. Richard’s argument, however, requires modification.

John W. Arnold [“The Poe Perplex: A Guide to the Tales,” Diss. Univ. of Massachusetts (1967), p. 342] and Burton Pollin [“Poe’s ‘Diddling’: The Source of Title and Tale,” Southern Literary Jou, 2 (1969), 106-111] have shown that the title and “science” of Poe’s “Raising the Wind” come from James Kenney’s 1803 farce of the same name, which features the Jeremy Diddler cited in the tale’s opening paragraph. Poe had access to numerous British and American printings and dozens of performances of this frequently staged play before 1833. Of its eight Baltimore stagings between 1829 and 1833, there are at least four that he could have attended with ample time afterwards to compose Mr. Snap’s tale. In a passing reference, Philip Lindsay [The Haunted Man. A Portrait of Edgar Allan Poe (New York: The Philosophical Library, 1954), p. 86] notes another source, De Quincey’s comic essay “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.” The first installment of this essay appeared in Blackwood’s for February 1827, the second in the same magazine in November 1839. The first installment in particular influenced both Mr. Snap’s tale and the Folio Club framework, for it features an editorial persona who announces his intention of exposing the “Society of Connoisseurs in Murder” by publishing one of their “Monthly Lectures” that had “fallen into . . . [his] hands accidentally, in spite of all the vigilance exercised to keep their transactions from the public eye.” The parallel with the Folio Club design, the echo of the lecture’s title in Poe’s subtitle — “Diddling Considered as One of the Exact Sciences” — and the family resemblance between the lecture itself and “Raising the Wind,” both of which are parodies of pedantic logic heavy with illustrative examples, strongly imply that the Folio Club prologue and this tale were composed at the same time and in conjunction with one another.

Other evidence supports the early dating and identification of “Raising the Wind” as Mr. Snap’s tale. According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, one meaning of “snap” is thief, making this Yankee figure’s type-name clearly appropriate for the subject of “Raising the Wind,” the science of the petty swindle. The wordplay on names [page 27:] and greatness in this tale’s opening paragraph unmistakably echoes Poe’s 1830-31 satire, “Lines on Joe Locke.” The quip by Alexander the Great that ends “The Duc de L’Omelette,” the eighth story in this collection, is also used in “Raising the Wind,” the only other time it appears in Poe’s canon. The word “nare” in this tale, unusual in Poe’s vocabulary, occurs twice elsewhere in Tales of the Folio Club. And “Lionizing,” the last story in the collection, features a character who becomes a “great man” by mastering “Nosology,” the “Science of Noses,” thus echoing the opening lines of “Raising the Wind” as well as its subject, the science of diddling. This last point is particularly significant, for the opening sections of “Raising the Wind” strongly resemble the lectures on pseudo-academic “sciences” — like “Chrononhotonthology,” the “science of meaningless verbosity” — that were a standard feature of the meetings of the Delphian Club, Poe’s immediate model for the Folio Club [see for further corroboration John E. Uhler, “The Delphian Club . . . ,” Maryland Historical Magazine, 20 (1925), 305-3461. While a member of the Delphians, John Neal delivered a particularly large number of such speeches on “Jocology,” the “science of joking.” The similarities between “Raising the Wind” and some of Neal’s comic lectures in the Delphian Club minutes are much more striking than its general resemblance to De Quincey’s essay; if Poe did not have direct access to these minutes, he could have read at least one of Neal’s speeches — although not a particularly representative sample — in the Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette, 1 (12 November 1828), 364-365. Thus “Raising the Wind” is obviously appropriate for a caricature of Neal to deliver to a group that is (on one level at least) a satiric equivalent for the Delphian Club.

It is Neal’s published work, however, that proves “Raising the Wind” must have been Mr. Snap’s tale. Most obviously, “Raising the Wind” mixes essay and narrative and features the conversational, slap-dash style so characteristic of the Yankee author’s writings (satirically, this is Mr. Snap’s conception of a “Short Prose Tale”). And when one turns the pages of Neal’s short-lived “Down-East Review,” the Yankee, Poe’s intentions become immediately clear, for “Raising the Wind” satirically mirrors Neal’s most characteristic editorial mannerisms in that magazine: discussing himself, praising Jeremy Bentham’s greatness, and writing or publishing almost weekly essays that define, explain, and promote Bentham’s Utilitarianism. In the Folio Club, a caricature of Neal, no longer in service to the defunct Yankee, comically persists in riding his editorial hobbyhorse, satirically transformed from a crusade for Jeremy Bentham and Utilitarianism into an enthusiastic celebration of Jeremy Diddler and the science of diddling. Thus in spite of the late publication date of “Raising the Wind” and the uncertain status of some elements of its text (Richard demonstrates the presence in it of later emendations satirically alluding to Thomas Ward; Poe may also have added or transformed the final “diddle” in the tale just prior to publication, for the quiz it contains features his mature references to Boston as the Frogpond and a Latin phrase that he may have lifted from the 1839 installment of De Quincey’s essay), there can be little doubt that this work was Mr. Snap’s contribution to the Folio Club competition.

II. “Mr. Convolvulus Gondola, a young gentleman who had travelled a good deal.”

“The Visionary,” Godoy’s Lady’s Book (1834).

The second character in the membership list is the obvious author of “The Visionary,” whose narrator is a tourist in Venice who encounters the tale’s hero while riding in a gondola on the Grand Canal. Richard P. Benton [“Is Poe’s ‘The Assignation’ a Hoax?” Nineteenth Century Fiction, 18 (1963), 193-197] identifies the narrator of “The Visionary” (and thus Mr. Convolvulus Gondola) as Thomas Moore, the tale’s main source as Moore’s 1830 biography of Byron, and its action as a quiz on Byron’s love affair with the Countess Guiccioli. Benton’s findings clearly reveal the function of “The Visionary” in the Folio Club collection. Mr. Convolvulus Gondola, a caricature of Thomas Moore, appropriately presents the Folio Club with a barely fictionalized story about Byron’s love-life. The various meanings of “Convolvulus” have self-evident satiric relevance for this club member’s elaborate prose style and worshipful attitude toward his main character, aspects of “The Visionary” that ironically exaggerate Moore’s narrative manner in his 1830 biography of Byron (the tale particularly echoes the excerpts from this book in N. P. Willis’ review for the American Month ly, 2 [March 1831], 842-857). Since the text of Mr. Convolvulus Gondola’s tale would almost certainly have been the Godey’s version of 1834 containing two introductory paragraphs dropped from later printings, his story would begin with an elaborately coy refusal to name its central character and with the claim that “the received account” of this figure’s “melancholy end is a tissue of malevolent blasphemies.” Thus Mr. Convolvulus Gondola presents the Folio Club with the “true” facts about Byron’s death; this spectacularly absurd revelation, together with the confusing clues with which the story reveals its hero’s identity, evidently provided the Folio Club with rich materials for critical debate.

III. “De Rerum Natura, Esqr., who wore a very singular pair of green spectacles.”

“Bon-Bon,” Southern Literary Messenger (1836).

Mabbott observed in 1928 that De Rerum Natura wears green spectacles just like “the devil in the story Bon-Bon, a tale about a philosopher, which is appropriate for a person who shared his name with the great philosophical poem of Lucretius.” William Bittner, picking up Wilson’s hunch that the devil was in the Folio Club, made the obvious inference from these shared spectacles: De Rerum Natura is Satan himself. There is firm evidence confirming these undeveloped insights: “Bon-Bon” contains a quiz that specifically links the devil with De Rerum Natura and explains this club member’s curious name. In response to Bon-Bon’s questions, the devil states that he was in Rome for only one five-year period, the political conditions of which imply the era of the Civil War of 49-45 B.C. Immediately after this enigmatic statement, he insists that he is Epicurus himself. The obvious result of the devil’s stay in Rome is thus De Rerum Natura, Lucretius’ verse presentation of Epicurus’ philosophy. [page 28:] Clearly, the Old Pretender’s transformations follow a pattern that leads to his latest manifestation in the guise of a Folio Club member with a singularly appropriate name.

A comparison of the 1835 text of “Bon-Bon” with “The Bargain Lost,” Philadelphia Saturday Courier ( 1832), reveals that Poe specifically revised the first version of this tale to serve as the contribution of De Rerum Natura, Esqr. In this revision, Poe added the above quiz and worked into his text a list of wines borrowed from Benjamin Disraeli’s Vivian Grey [compare Works, II, 350, with Vivu Grey (London: Henry Colburn, 1826-27), V, 7-8], an important source for two other Folio Club stories, “King Pest” and “Lionizing.” Poe’s revisions of “The Bargain Lost” also prove that the design for the eleven-story Folio Club collection was not fully developed until after the Courier stories were composed. As Ruth L. Hudson demonstrates [“Poe’s Craftsmanship in the Short Story,” Diss. Univ. of Virginia (1935), pp. 384-3971, the primary sources behind this story are Robert Macnish’s devil tales, particularly “The Metempsychosis” in Blackwood’s for May 1826. Poe’s satiric intentions here are clear: “Bon-Bon” is a version of the Faust story as Satan himself might tell it. The full irony of this tale about a devil with a gourmet’s taste who turns down the eager offer of a philosopher’s soul because he has a full supply and fastidiously objects to taking advantage of a drunk emerges only with the recognition that the narrator is Satan, writing about himself in the third person. Satan’s Epicureanism, in both senses of that word, is insistently revealed in his story’s punning conjunction of philosophers with gourmet dishes and wines, its implicit distaste for Bon-Bon’s lack of moderation, and its assumption that souls are of such a nature that they may be eaten — a comic embodiment of the argument of De Rerum Natura that the soul is composed of atoms and is therefore material.

IV. “A very little man in a black coat with very black eyes.”

“Slope — A Fable,” The Baltimore Book (1837).

Two quarto leaves survive from the manuscript of the eleven-story Folio Club collection: the prologue is hand-printed on both sides of one leaf bearing the page numbers nine and ten (pages one through eight evidently contained additional editorial apparatus, perhaps like Swift’s in A Tale of a Tub); and the last half of “Slope” appears on the second leaf — now in the Virginia State Library — with page numbers sixty-one and sixty-two. Calculations based on a word count of the Folio Club stories and the word-per-page rate in these manuscripts demonstrate that “Slope” must have had roughly this position in Poe’s collection; a process of elimination definitely assigns this story to the little man in black, who is, I think, a caricature of Poe himself (Poe’s eyes were gray, but even so this comic self-portrait emphasizes his most recognizable features: slight stature; large brilliant eyes; and black clothing) . The various arguments that “Slope” was intended as a satire on transcendentalism [see Wilson, 215; Clark Griffith, “Poe’s ‘Ligeia’ and the English Romantics,” University of Toronto Quarterly, 24 (1954), 13-17; and Alice Moser Claudel, “What Has [column 2:] Poe’s ‘Silence’ To Say?” Ball State University Forum, 10 (1969), 66-701 are not convincing in my opinion. While there are numerous influences on this tale, its primary source is simply Poe’s own poetry, which it echoes insistently. As those few readers familiar with Poe’s work were presumably meant to recognize, “Slope” is precisely the kind of “Short Prose Tale” to be expected from this Folio Club member on the basis of the haunted landscapes, Orientalism, and animate vegetation of his published poems. (Perhaps the title of this story, Greek for “silence,” is even an anagram that reveals the little man in black “is Poe.”)

The narrator in “Slope” may thus be Poe himself, retelling a fable that has, he admits, haunted his imagination. The Demon who tells him this fable claims that his listener could only have beheld its setting “in one of those vigorous dreams which come like the Simoom upon the brain of the sleeper who hath lain down to sleep among the forbidden sunbeams — among the sunbeams, I say, which slide from off the solemn columns of the melancholy temples in the wilderness.” Beneath the Demon’s ponderous thetoric is, I suggest, the comic image of a young Poe stealing naps in the courtyard of the University of Virginia. This ironic self-perspective is carried into the rest of the tale, for in the Demon’s fable itself, significantly delivered from a tomb, Poe creates what amounts to a deliberately exaggerated representation of his own poetic world, rendered in images that ironically heighten its characteristic symbolism. As his poetry testifies, the little man in black had indeed envisioned such landscapes as the Demon describes.

When first published, “Slope” bore the subtitle “In the manner of the Psychological Autobiographists.” Poe’s source for this phrase was almost certainly Disraeli’s Contarini Fleming. A Psychological Auto-Biography (1832), the first chapter of which in particular seems to have influenced the “manner” of “Slope.” While much more oblique, ironically detached, and self-consciously enigmatic than Contarini Fleming, “Slope” is also a form of “Psychological Auto-Biography” in which Poe reveals his preoccupation with a vision of man’s plight in the midst of “an absurd world of weird, shifting appearances” [cited from G. R. Thompson’s query, “‘Silence’ and Folio Club: Who Were the ‘Psychological Autobiographists’?” Poe Newsletter, 2 (1969), 23, which initiated my search for this source].

V. “Mr. Solomon Seadrift, who had every appearance of a fish.”

“MS. Found in a Bottle,” Baltimore Saturday Visiter (1833).

Since the first section of “MS. Found in a Bottle” literally involves drifting in a mastless ship, its appropriateness for an author named Seadrift is self-evident. Scholars have noted various sources behind this tale about the Flying Dutchman, the narrator of which dutifully records obvious clues to the ghost-ship’s identity while obtusely failing to respond to them, such as William Gilmore Simms’ “A Picture of the Sea” (1828) [John C. Guilds, “Poe’s ‘MS. Found in a Bottle’: A Probable Source,” Notes u Queries, 201 (1956), 4521, Coleridge’s [page 29:] The Rime of the Ancient Mariner [Floyd Stovall, “Poe’s Debt to Coleridge,” University of Texas Studies in English, 10 (1930), 77-78], and John Cleves Symmes’ hoax, Symzonia: A Voyage of Discovery ( 1820) [J. O. Bailey, “Sources for Poe’s Arthur Gordon Pym . . . ,” PMLA, 57 (1942), 534-535, and “Introduction,” Symzonia (Gainesville, Florida: Scholars Facsimile, 1965)]. Mr. Solomon Seadrift’s connection with “MS. Found in a Bottle” is also argued in Claude Richard’s “Les Contes du Folio Club et la Vocation Humoristique d’Edgar Allan Poe” [Configuration Critique d’Edga; Allan Poe, ed. Claude Richard (Paris: Minard, 1969), pp. 87-90]; Richard notes that Seadrift’s name recalls the mythical authors of two hoaxes, Jane Porter’s Sir Edward Seaward’s Narrative (1831) and Symmes’ Symxonia, ostensibly written by Captain Adam Seaborn, and that his Folio Club tale ironically exaggerates the general manner and matter of these pseudorealistic sea narratives. Since the framework of “MS. Found in a Bottle” is unique among the Folio Club stories, some minor refinements to Richard’s argument suggest themselves.

Mr. Solomon Seadrift’s name seems to be in particular an ironically diminished form (post-Fall, as it were) of Captain Adam Seaborn, implying this figure may be a caricature of the real author of Symzonia. Since Seadrift’s contribution of a story ending in a vortex at the South Pole is directly analogous to Symmes’ publication of his Symzonia hoax, which claims to record an actual voyage through a polar vortex into an inner world, this Folio Club author evidently attempts a similar hoax on Poe’s literary club. The framework of his tale certainly supports the assumption that Seadrift would present it to the Folio Club as an actual journal, written by another hand, that he had literally “found in a bottle.” This assumption is also consistent with this character’s description in the prologue, for the newest club member evidently feels Seadrift’s claim “fishy” enough to hazard a bad joke: Seadrift “had every appearance of a fish,” a comically appropriate rescuer for this journal sealed in a bottle and thrown into the sea. This speculation is confirmed, I think, by a quiz in “MS. Found in a Bottle” that explicitly links it to Symzonia: when the narrator daubs the word “DISCOVERY” on a sail, his adventure becomes “A Voyage of Discovery,” the subtitle of Symzonia and a phrase that occurs repeatedly in its text. Clearly Seadrift, a caricature of the author of Symzonia, tries to hoax the Folio Club into believing the veracity of a transparently manufactured fiction that rides his famous hobbyhorse about holes at the poles.

In “Les Contes du Folio Club” and in “‘MS. Found in a Bottle’ and the Folio Club” [Poe Newsletter, 2 (1969), 23], Richard speculates that at some stage in the growth of this collection, Mr. Snap contributed this tale. The basis for this is the last sentence of the prologue — ”Here Mr. Snap, having pushed the bottle, produced a M.S. and read as follows” — which obviously recalls the title of “MS. Found in a Bottle.” The reason for the verbal similarity, I think, is that Poe probably repeated this formulaic phrase before each club member began his tale; in the case of Seadrift, as Richard suggests, the verbal doubling implies that he found his inspiration for the tale in a bottle containing something more heady than a manuscript. [column 2:]

VI. “Mr. Horribile Dictu, with white eyelashes, who had graduated at Gottingen.”

“Metzengerstein,” Philadelphia Saturday Courier (1832) and Southern Literary Messenger (1836).

G. R. Thompson [“Poe’s ‘Flawed’ Gothic: Absurdist Techniques in ‘Metzengerstein’ and the Courier Satires,” ESQ, No. 60 Suppl. (1970), 38-58] has recently reestablished the relationship between Mr. Horribile Dictu, whose name and description specify his literary commitment to “Germanism” in the horror story, and “Metzengerstein,” an ironic tour de force in the Gothic mode that Poe printed in 1836 with the subtitle “In Imitation of the German.” Thompson’s reading of “Metzengerstein,” which documents Poe’s satiric treatment of Dictu’s role as narrator in this tale, makes clear the tale’s function in the Folio Club collection and needs no supplement here. The presence of “Metzengerstein” and “‘The Duc de L’Omelette” in this collection strongly suggests that Poe was at work on some form of Tales of the Folio Club as early as 1831, although the revisions of “The Bargain Lost” show that his design for the eleven-story version was not fully evolved until after his Courier stories were completed.

VII. “Mr. Blackwood Blackwood who had written certain articles for foreign magazines.”

“The Quick Among the Dead” episode from “Loss of Breath. A Tale a la Blackwood,” Southern Literary Messenger ( 1835).

It is unnecessary to review the familiar evidence for what Poe meant by Mr. Blackwood Blackwood’s name: obviously this character would offer the Folio Club a version of those tales in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine mixing terror and metaphysics whose formula Poe described in his 1838 satire, “How to Write a Blackwood Article.” (Professor Benton very reasonably suggests to me that Poe may have intended Mr. Blackwood Blackwood as a caricature of William Maginn, a well-known British magazinist whose frequent contributions to Blackwood’s did much to establish its characteristic manner.) Scholars have traditionally linked this Folio Club member to “Loss of Breath,” a burlesque “Tale a la Blackwood.” The 1835 text of this story is a much more likely choice here than its shorter, 1832 form (“A Decided Loss”), because the later version contains an added episode detailing its narrator’s “sensations” while being hanged and buried alive that in itself precisely satisfies Poe’s formula for “a genuine Blackwood article of the sensation stamp.” Poe evidently recognized that this episode, which I have entitled “The Quick Among the Dead” from a phrase in its text, was more or less an independent unit within the whole, for he deleted it intact from his Broadway Journa1 printing of the tale (see Works, II, 357-364); in this 1845 printing, the subtitle of “Loss of Breath” became “A Tale Neither In nor Out of Blackwood,” suggesting that Poe considered the deleted episode more typically a “Blackwood Article” than the remaining portions of the story.

This evidence directly supports the hypothesis that Mr. Blackwood Blackwood’s tale was not the whole of [page 30:] “Loss of Breath” but rather some version of “The Quick Among the Dead”; the differences between this episode and the remainder of the tale, and the history of the collection’s evolution, suggest that “The Quick Among the Dead” was originally an independent story designed specifically for Mr. Blackwood Blackwood, a story which Poe later combined with “A Decided Loss” in the summer of 1835 to create “Loss of Breath” after he had abandoned the eleven-story format for Tales of the Folio Club. The slapstick manner of most of “Loss of Breath” is too obviously a burlesque of the “Blackwood Article” to be really appropriate for Mr. Blackwood Blackwood, particularly since the other club members submit stories that, for all their ironic exaggeration, are still plausible as the creations of writers fully committed to the literary modes and styles implied by their type-names. On the other hand, the narrative manner of “The Quick Among the Dead” is sufficiently different from the other sections of “Loss of Breath” to be plausible for an author who is as implicitly faithful to the Blackwood’s formula for the tale of terror as Horribile Dictu (with whom Poe juxtaposes him in the collection) is to the longer established Gothic manner.

As G. R. Thompson suggests [“Poe’s ‘Flawed’ Gothic,” 43-45], the satire in “Loss of Breath” as a whole really ranges far beyond the Blackwood’s predicament tale; “The Quick Among the Dead,” on the other hand, is quite specifically an exaggerated imitation of such stories. Its major events directly recall “Le Revenant” and “The Buried Alive” from that magazine [see Margaret Alterton, Origins of Poe’s Critical Theory (Iowa City: Univ. of Iowa Humanistic Studies, 1925), p. 44, and Ruth Hudson, “Poe’s Craftsmanship in the Short Story,” pp. 320325]. And since the breathless condition of the central character in “Loss of Breath” (and “A Decided Loss”) is never directly mentioned in “The Quick Among the Dead,” evidently the original version of this episode in the eleven-story collection featured a narrator who suffered through hanging and burial like his Blackwood’s counterparts without the benefit of Mr. Lack-o’breath’s unique advantage. The argument here is, of course, problematical: without stronger evidence to the contrary, the possibility that Mr. Blackwood Blackwood’s tale in this stage of the collection was either “A Decided Loss” or the whole of “Loss of Breath” cannot be ruled out.

VIII. “The host, Mr. Rouge-et-Noir, who admired Lady Morgan.”

“The Duc de L’Omelette,” Philadelphia Saturday Courier ( 1832) and Southern Literary Messenger (1836).

This club member’s French name links him both to the predominant stylistic mannerism in “The Duc de L’Omelette” and to the nationality of its hero; and since rouge et noir is a card game (now archaic, but similar ro faro), this figure’s type-name obviously points to “The Duc de L’Omelette” which features a hero who gambles at cards with the devil. Mr. Rouge-et-Noir’s narrative manner in this tale unmistakably reveals his admiration for Lady Morgan, for he apes her flippant, sophisticated tone, her affectation of French phrases, and her habit of [column 2:] referring to obviously important people by initials; the tale recalls any number of sketches prattling about food, clothes, society, and French dandies in Lady Morgan’s Book of the Boudoir ( 1829) or France in 1829-30 (1830).

Poe built this tale from a number of other sources. Ruth Hudson [“Poe and Disraeli,” America?’ Literature, 8 (1937), 402-416] and David H. Hirsch “Another Source for Poe’s ‘The Duc de L’Omelette,”’ AL, 38 (1967), 532-536] note his borrowings from Disraeli’s The Young Duke (1831). The setting may have been suggested by Montfleury’s speech in Hades in the Parnasse Reforme (alluded to in the second sentence of the tale; Poe evidently knew this passage from Isaac D’Israeli’s quotation of it in Curiosities of Literature}. And Kenneth L. Daughrity [“Poe’s ‘Quiz on Willis,’” AL, 5 (1933), 55-62] convincingly demonstrates how the tale’s hero directly embodies N. P. Willis’ mannered characterization of himself in the “Editor’s Table” of the American Monthly Magazine. Professor Benton has pointed out to me that Willis lavishly praises Lady Morgan’s Book of the Boudoir in the “Editor’s Table,” American Monthly, 1 (November 1829), 579-586. Poe obviously saw this notice, for immediately after it Willis pictures himself burning a recently submitted manuscript, Poe’s “Fairyland.” Clearly Mr. Rouge-et-Noir “who admired Lady Morgan” is a caricature of Willis.

By having Mr. Rouge-et-Noir faithfully mimic Lady Morgan’s style in “The Duc de L’Omelette,” Poe ipso facto satirizes Willis’ taste, for the good lady’s polyglot manner and lightweight intellect were popular targets of patronizing abuse among contemporary magazine critics. And by having “Willis” as narrator in “The Duc de L’Omelette” gush admiration for an incredibly foppish hero modeled on his own editorial persona, Poe satirically exaggerates the affectation and vanity Willis displays in his posturing in the “Editor’s Table” pieces. It is relevant to add here that the respective offices of Mr. Snap as President and Mr. Rouge-et-Noir as host mean that the Folio Club judged their tales best and worst at the previous month’s meeting. Since these figures represent Poe’s first important critics, he may have been indulging in the private luxury of having the Folio Club mete out reward and punishment to them for their widely different responses to his poetry. Mr. Snap and Mr. Rouge-et-Noir would very probably argue about “Slope” and Lady Morgan, for in the same issues of the Yankee and American Monthly in which Neal and Willis noticed Poe’s manuscript poems, they also exchanged jibes at one another over the Book of the Boudoir. Finally, it is unnecessary to do more than mention the dramatic irony that results when the Folio Club host reads his tale about a dandified hero who outwits an ineffectual, womanizing Satan at a meeting attended by De Rerum Natural

IX. “A stout gentleman who admired Sir Walter Scott.”

“King Pest the First,” Southern Literary Messenger (1835).

J. S. Wilson accurately observes that “King Pest” “opens in the most familiar Scott manner, with two men, [page 31:] at first unnamed, in an ale-house.” A quick sampling of Scott’s works will reveal numerous examples of this ploy. The opening sentences of “King Pest,” which establish the tale’s setting by referring to geographical landmarks and its historical period by naming the reigning monarch, similarly duplicate a common feature of Scott’s openings. The setting in Chaucerian England, the careful digressions to fill in historical background, and the allusion early in the tale to Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Scotland, are likewise all appropriate for a Folio Club member who admires Scott’s historical romances.

While “King Pest” begins in Scott’s manner, it soon inverts the London ruled by Edward II into a Gothic wasteland ruled by a masquerading court of drunkards, exchanges the “Jolly Tar” for an undertaker’s wine cellar with a charnel-house decor, and replaces the tavern keeper and his patrons with King Pest and his company of grotesques. Poe’s source for King Pest’s court in this bizarre looking-glass world was the palace of wines episode from Disraeli’s 1827 sequel to Vivian Grey [Ruth Hudson, “Poe and Disraeli,” pp. 403-406]. William Whipple demonstrates that Poe used this source to create caricatures of Andrew Jackson, Rachel Jackson, Peggy Eaton, and the Kitchen Cabinet, making one level of this multifaceted tale a political satire attacking the reign of “King Andrew” during his first term of office [“Poe’s Political Satire,” University of Texas Studies in English, 35 (1956), 81-95]. Jackson and his Kitchen Cabinet are not, however, the only “junto” mirrored in King Pest’s court. The Folio Club itself, an oligarchy ruling in a literary rather than a political sphere, is also a “mere Junto of Dunderheadism” that meets at table over wine; its president, like King Pest, is “very lank”; its members, at least in the opinion of the prologue’s narrator, are similarly “quite as ill-looking as they are stupid” (by the end of the evening, the Folio Club characters may well be as drunk as King Pest’s court); and it too is disrupted by a new initiate who resists its decrees and declares it fraudulent. The pandemonium that reigns in King Pest’s court when the rwo sailors revoir and steal Queen Pest and the Arch Duchess Ana-Pest almost certainly anticipates the final scene in the Folio Club collection where the newest member seizes the Folio Club manuscripts and rushes from Mr. Rouge-et-Noir’s house.

Through this double-edged representation of Jackson’s administration and the Folio Club’s yet unfinished meeting, Poe broadens his satiric attack to include both the political and the literary establishment, in effect presenting a complex image of the two spheres as blighted wastelands ruled over by grotesque councils of self-appointed pretenders. This remarkable tale constitutes an important turning point in Poe’s design, since it both prepares for the broader representation of Jacksonian democracy in the next story and begins the author’s efforts in the last three Folio Club tales to make his overall satiric position in the book explicit.

The stout gentleman who delivers this tale is almost certainly Washington Irving, whose ambivalent, often satiric use of the modes of historical romance and Gothicism is implied, I think, in the mixed manner of “King Pest.” Irving had a “tendency to corpulence” [Edward Wagenknecht, [column 2:] Washington Irving: Moderation Displayed (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1962), p. 25] and his regard for Scott, who had befriended him early in his career, was well known. Poe’s designation “A stout gentleman” directly recalls Irving’s story “The Stout Gentleman” in Bracebridge Hall; more significantly, it mirrors the way in which Irving styled his well-known pseudonym, “Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.”

X. “Chronologos Chronology who admired Horace Smith and had a very big nose which had been in Asia Minor.”

“Epimanes” (the text Poe copied from the eleven-story collection into his letter of 4 May 1833 to the New-England Magazine, now in the H. Bradley Martin Collection).

“Epimanes” and “Lionizing,” the final stories in this book, are among the five tales known to have been part of the 1833 collection; a process of elimination thus assigns them to the last two Folio Club members. The description of Chronologos Chronology, which suggests that Poe intended him as a caricature of a Jew, directly links him to “Epimanes,” a story set in Asia Minor that satirizes Antiochus Epimanes, one of Judaism’s most famous enemies. In “Poe’s Craftsmanship in the Short Story,” pp. 292-306, Ruth Hudson shows that the curious narrative framework of “Epimanes,” in which the narrator takes the reader on an imaginative journey into the past and assumes that they are both literally on the scene, is identical with that of Horace Smith’s Tales of Early Ages (1832). “Epimanes” very neatly captures the glib antiquarianism, flippant tone, and boisterous asides that characterize Smith’s narrative manner in this book, a collection of historical romances arranged chronologically by century. Chronologos Chronology’s type-name, as Miss Hudson notes, points to the mannerism in both the tale and its source of orienting the reader with repeated references to dates and historical chronology.

In “Poe’s Political Satire,” pp. 83-84, William Whipple argues that “Jacksonianism is certainly under attack” in “Epimanes”: on this level of the story, Antiochus functions as Jackson, the courtiers as Jackson’s cabinet, and the chaotic “foot race” witnessed by the mob as an election. Professor Benton has pointed out to me the textual evidence, which I can give here in only summary form, that unquestionably confirms and considerably enriches Whipple’s reading: Antioch in this story is Washington, D.C., complete with such landmarks as the Potomac River (the Orontes) and the Capitol building (the Temple of the Sun); the temple of Diana that Antiochus attempts to “plunder” is implicitly the Second Bank of the United States, whose new charter Jackson vetoed in 1832; and the Jews in the story are the Bank’s supporters. A close reading of “Epimanes” thus reveals a richly detailed satiric image of Jacksonian democracy, the Washington scene, and the Bank War.

These facts serve to identify Chronologos Chronology as Mordecai M. Noah, probably the best known American Jew of this era, a newspaper editor, politician, and author [page 32:] whose “essays and other works,” Poe once noted, gave “evidence of no ordinary learning and penetration on certain topics — chiefly connected with Israelitish history.” Noah had traveled in the Mediterranean area, although not specifically to Asia Minor, when he served as U.S. Consul to Tunis under Madison’s administration. More significantly, he had been an ardent supporter of Jackson in the election of 1828, for which he received a political appointment over considerable Senate opposition, and an early champion of Jackson’s opposition to renewing the U.S. Bank charter. But in the spring of 1831 Noah and the newspaper of which he was half owner abruptly changed sides in this controversy; a much-publicized Congressional investigation early in 1832 revealed that the timing of this switch directly coincided with a covert financial arrangement between the newspaper’s owners and the U.S. Bank. Noah not unexpectedly had a falling-out with Jackson and resigned his political appointment. The appropriateness of “Epimanes” for this author need not, I think, be labored.

Finally, I should note that “Epimanes” carries forward the ironic parallel of the literary and political worlds begun in “King Pest.” The tyrant Antiochus reigns not only as monarch but also as “Prince of Poets” who celebrates himself in inane verse; the admiring mob predicts that he will easily win both the “foot race” and the “Poetic Crown” in the next “Olympiad.” The satiric point is clear: those at the top in the competitive worlds of literature and politics maintain their positions because of the gullibility of their audiences, the “noble and free citizens” portrayed here as “a tumultuous mob of idiots and madmen.”

XI. The newest Folio Club member who narrates the prologue.

“Lionizing,” Southern Literary Messenger (1835).

Since I have discussed the relationship between this character and “Lionizing” at length elsewhere [“Poe’s ‘Lionizing’ and the Design of Tales of the Folio Club,” ESQ, 18 (1972), 154-165], I shall only summarize my conclusions here. “Lionizing” contains a quiz identifying its narrator (and by implication, its Folio Club author) as Benjamin Disraeli. The tale itself is a comic imitation of that author’s first novel, Vivian Grey, satirically altered to equate Disraeli’s early literary career with his title character’s aggressive efforts to become a “great man” in British politics. Like the young Disraeli, the newest Folio Club member attempts to enter the current literary establishment with an autobiographical narrative that displays his own egotism and ambitions, and the rebuff that the Folio Club administers to his story directly parallels the reception of Vivian Grey once the British magazine critics discovered its author’s identity. The fall of Thomas Smith in “Lionizing” thus recalls the abortive beginning of Disraeli’s literary career and ironically foreshadows the newest member’s analogous failure in the gathering of lions calling itself the Folio Club. [For other sources and viewpoints on this satire, see Richard P. Benton, “Poe’s ‘Lionizing’: A Quiz on Willis and Lady Blessington,” Studies [column 2:] in Short Fiction, 5 (1968), 239-244, and G. R. Thompson, “On the Nose — Further Speculation on the Sources and Meaning of Poe’s ‘Lionizing,’ “ SSF, 6 (1968), 94-96.]

In this context, it is relevant to add that “Lionizing” serves to gather together the strands of political and literary satire in this collection. By making us see Disraeli’s literary motivations in terms of Vivian Grey’s values, “Lionizing” reveals the essential character of literary ambition to be identical with the politician’s desire for fame and power. In the prologue, a frustrated “Disraeli” shows precisely this attitude when he insistently turns to political metaphor to discuss the literary group that has rejected him. “Lionizing” thus adds a final perspective to the satiric parallel of the workings of the political and literary establishments that informs “King Pest” and “Epimanes.” This perspective, however, involves a distinct shift from the dark satire of these two preceding tales. With “Lionizing,” Poe’s Tales of the Folio Club takes on a comic breadth, portraying the fame and influence that spring from “an established name” not as “an estate in tenure,” not as “a throne in possession,” but as a precarious and ephemeral condition; with rich bawdy, this tale trivializes the world ruled by such figures into a comic charade of empty postures and meaningless words.

This reconstruction reveals a coherent, intricately organized work, the contents of which are clearly integral parts of its structure. As Horace Smith’s satiric formulas for writing popular novels in The Midsummer Medley for 1830 reveal, Poe carefully planned Tales of the Folio Club to contain a representative panorama of different modes of contemporary fiction: Smith’s categories are the sentimental (“The Visionary”), the mysterious and supernatural after Mrs. Radcliffe (“Metzengerstein”), the “intense” of real rather than imaginary horrors (“The Quick Among the Dead”), the fashionable (“The Duc de L’Omelette” and “Lionizing”), and the historical (“King Pest” and “Epimanes”) . Poe fills out this selection with an Oriental story (“Siope”), a sea narrative and literary hoax (“MS. Found in a Bottle”), a Faust story (“Bon-Bon”), and what might be called an American tale (“Raising the Wind,” which features the only distinctly American character in the collection, the confidence man) . Similarly, the club members, even when one allows for those few whose identity remains obscure, constitute an Anglo-American cast of poets, fiction writers, editors, and critics. The structural and metaphorical center for this variety is, of course, the Folio Club itself, an extended image for the international literary establishment, the dynamics of which are satirized in the club’s monthly competition to rank the new products of a tightly limited oligarchy of established names. The Folio Club banquet, presided over by a “lank” president and attended by Satan, is reflexively mirrored throughout the stories in their repeated references to food and drink, multiple characterizations of the devil, and disguised caricatures of Jackson and his Kitchen Cabinet. This book, even in its present fragmentary form, represents a technical feat of considerable sophistication. Its range, allusive richness, and sheer virtuosity qualify it as a major satire, the loss of which has, I think, significantly distorted Poe’s literary reputation.


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[S:0 - PSDR, 1972]