Text: Erich W. Sippel, “Another of Poe’s ‘Savans’: Edward Tatham,” Poe Studies, June 1976, Vol. IX, No. 1, 9:16-21


[page 16, column 2:]

Another of Poe’s “Savans”:
Edward Tatham

Occidental College

Harrier R. Holman has established that Edgar Allan Poe satirized various individuals in the early pages of Eureka who were encyclopedists “or attempted to organize knowledge around a central philosophy, as Francis Bacon had done” (1). But at least one system-builder whom Poe consulted — one who consciously modeled himself after Bacon — has gone undetected: Edward Tatham, author of the encyclopedic work The Chart and Scale of Truth. As its title suggests, Tatham’s treatise is a pretentious compendium of the arts and sciences which, he claims, demonstrates a new system of logic based on the Baconian principle of induction. It was, thus, just the sort of work which Holman has shown that Poe satirized in Eureka.

Tatham’s treatise was first delivered at Oxford in 1789 as the Bampton Lectures; the first volume of the lectures was published in book form in 1790, and the second in 1792. A new edition, “revised, corrected, and enlarged” by E. W. Grinfield, was published in 1840. In the intervening fifty years it established itself as a standard work on logic, an authority conferred on it by the Encyclopaedia Britannica. In the article on logic in all editions of the encyclopedia published during Poe’s lifetime, the Britannica editors proclaimed, “This chapter is almost wholly taken from Dr. Tatham’s ‘Chart and Scale of Truth,’ a work, which, notwithstanding the ruggedness of its style, has so much real merit, that it cannot be too diligently studied by the inquirer, who would travel by the straight road to the temple of science” (2). Given Poe’s well known reliance on encyclopedias, it would not be surprising to find him using a work strongly recommended by the queen of encyclopedias. The evidence that Poe did, in fact, use The Chart and Scale of Truth is admittedly circumstantial, for Poe never mentioned the work by name (3), but parallels between Eureka and Tatham’s work are sufficiently dose to sustain the hypothesis that Poe consulted it in writing his prose poem on the spiritual and material universe.

As he usually did, Poe went beyond his source: eclectically, he took clues, thoughts, and arguments from Tatham and extracted from them whatever nourishment they could give his own work. In making these borrowings, Poe invariably improved upon the expression he found in Tatham’s work. But his relationship with this source was not simply one of adapting and rewriting. Tatham’s comments on the subjects of poetry and analogic reasoning seemed to Poe to invite not a theory of Baconian induction but a theory of intuition. Poe’s desire in Eureka to spin on the heel in order to perceive the unity of the Whole led him into “seemingly intuitive leaps,” and his intuition undermined Tatham’s rigidly ordered logical system, just as the imp of the perverse upset the ordered system of phrenology. Thus, although Poe borrowed from Tatham and accepted [page 17:] some of his premises, in doing so he undermined the thrust of Tatham’s system. Poe’s attitude toward The Chart and Scale of Truth was, thus, deeply ironic.

Tatham’s thesis was that Divine Truth, which is “the same and uniform” in the Divine Mind, becomes diffused like a ray of light into the various arts and sciences as it passes through the human intellect, will, and imagination. Induction allows us to understand these fragmented parts of the Divine Mind (4). As Tatham explained in a chapter titled “The General Plan,” his purpose was to describe the specific kinds of truth appropriate to the arts and sciences and to show their interrelationships, thereby producing a verbal “chart of truth.” At the same time he attempted the sometimes contradictory task of providing a hierarchy of truth which ascended from mathematics, through physics, metaphysics, facts, history, ethics, poetry, and music, to theology, the highest of all truths (5). Behind both of these purposes, however, was a larger one: Tatham was attempting to reconcile, before Darwin permanently disrupted the eighteenth century’s perfectly ordered universe, man’s reason with divine mystery. This work is thus a member of that genre of natural theology in which Barton Levi St. Armand has recently placed Eureka (6).

Commencing this part of his task, Tatham writes, “With sentiments of deepest awe and reverence, I enter upon this province of sacred truth . . . . This exalted study is . . . perplexed in all its parts, [and] . . . difficult in its arrangement and discussion” (II, 13). The echo of this sentiment in the opening of Eureka is unmistakable, indeed, one senses a hint of parody here, for Poe seems to play a game of “more humble than thou” with Tatham: “It is with humility really unassumed — it is with a sentiment even of awe — that I pen the opening sentence of this work: for of all conceivable subjects I approach the reader with the most solemn — the most comprehensive — the most difficult — the most august” (7).

Tatham argues that Aristotelian deductive logic undermines rather than supports theology. Although his own scheme is frequently Aristotelian, as Editor Grinfield points out (I, xxvii), Tatham states flatly, “The Organon of Aristotle . . . instead of being, as he vainly hoped, the instrument of all truth, has been the instrument of ignorance and error” (I, 341). Tatham’s hero is Francis Bacon, who in his opinion had eclipsed “the merit and fame of Aristotle” (I, 339). “There is but one path to truth,” Tatham declares — the path of Baconian induction. Any other method is “an enemy in ambush, on all occasions [ready] to turn [the seeker after truth] aside from the direct and successful road” (I, 15).

Tatham’s passionate position is strangely anachronistic, seeming to belong more to the debates of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries than to the nineteenth. Echoing Tatham’s imagery, Poe ridicules both Baconians and Aristotelians in Eureka: “I . . . quarrel with these ancients,” Pundita says, “on account of their pompous and infatuate proscription of all other roads to Truth than the two narrow and crooked paths” of induction and deduction “to which . . . they have dared to confine the Soul — the Soul which loves nothing so well as to soar in those regions of illimitable intuition which are utterly incognizant of ‘path’” (8). Tatham’s extremism may well account for Poe’s curious decision to satirize the narrow-mindedness of Aristorelian [column 2:] and Baconian “savans” in Eureka — hardly a burning issue for an American audience in an era when very different “roads to Truth” were being mapped out by revivalists, abolitionists, and Transcendentalists.

Furthermore, both writers discuss deduction and induction in similar terms. Tatham writes, “the whole exercise of reason, as it advances in the direct investigation of truth . . . is ascending and descending; ascending by induction from less to greater, from particulars to generals;[9] and descending by syllogism from greater to less, from general to less general, and to particulars” (I, 51). Poe adopts the same idiosyncratic spatial metaphor in Eureka: “This thesis admits a choice between two modes of discussion: — We may ascend or descend.” He then describes ascending as beginning with particulars and moving outwards into the universe, and descending as moving “to small from great” (10).

Holman suggests that “Ram” in Eureka may refer to Peter Ramus, the sixteenth-century logician who declared that “Everything Aristotle wrote is fabricated” and claimed to have replaced Aristotelian logic with a system of his own (11). Tatham’s work could not have been the source of Poe’s knowledge of Ramus, since Tatham never mentions Ramus (12). Nevertheless, Tatham’s supposedly new system of logic is often unmistakably Ramistic in its approach and method. The most idiosyncratic feature of Ramistic logic is its seemingly endless dichotomizing of concepts until indivisible ideas, called “arguments,” are reached (13). Tatham frequently makes use of this technique, as in the following passage in which he dichotomizes mathematics into its irreducible elements: Mathematics “is confined to the predicament of quantity, which being of two kinds magnitude and multitude, that is, quantity continuous and quantity discrete, the first bounded and defined by figure, the second bounded and defined by number, is accordingly divided by these different subjects into two correspondent branches geometry and arithmetic. And . . . they are the simplest in their principles, the clearest in their reasoning, and the most convincing in their truth” (14). Thus, Tatham’s system was based on the logic of Aristotle, Bacon, and Ramus — three of the “savans” toward whom Poe directed the bulk of his satire in Eureka. I have been unable to find any nineteenth-century work on logic besides Poe’s and Tatham’s which effects this combination, it is unlikely that one exists (15). A reasonable explanation for the similarity is that Poe consulted Tatham’s work and satirized this universal system as he satirized the systems of the “savans” Holman discusses.

But Poe not only satirized the logical systems on which The Chart and Scale of Truth is based; he drew from it as well. In a four-paragraph section in the middle of Eureka, Poe discusses the relationships among secondary causes and the First Cause, God (XVI, 253-255). His discussion parallels a series of lengthy footnotes in The Chart and Scale of Truth in which Tatham discusses the same issue (I, 161-171). The passage in Eureka begins with a reference to reconciling gravity and centripetal force with centrifugal force — a problem which, according to Tatham, Newton was unable to resolve. Poe proceeds to set up what appears to be a straw man by summarizing anonymous theorists: “After referring . . . the centripetal force to the omniprevalent law of Gravity, it has been [page 18:] the fashion with astronomical treatises, to seek beyond the limits of mere Nature — that is to say, of Secondary Cause — a solution of the phenomenon of tangential velocity [centrifugal force]. This latter they attribute to a First Cause — to God. The force which carries a stellar body around its primary they assert to have originated in an impulse given immediately by the finger — this is the childish phraseology employed — by the finger of the Deity itself” (XVI,253). In light of Poe’s source, however, this is no straw man but rather Dr. Thomas Reid. Tatham argues that Newton should never have raised the question Poe mentions, “the causes of celestial motion,” and instead should have left it to “Him, many of whose ways are above all human investigation.” Tatham feels, however, “in duty bound” to provide a defense of Newton, which is attached to the book as a preface by Dr. Thomas Reid. Reid writes of Newton, “He seems . . . to me, to have just stopped, where a natural philosopher ought to stop. Having traced the chain of natural and dependent causes, as far as he was able, and shown, that the highest link he was able to reach, still implied a higher, which must be either a natural and dependent cause, or the finger of God” (16).

The parallels between Poe’s passage and Tatham’s continue. Poe argues that the perfect adaptation of the moon’s orbit to the earth’s, miraculous though it appears, does not call for the assumption that God directly intervenes in nature — an idea Poe calls timorous, idle, and awkward — for “Nature and the God of Nature are distinct” (XVI, 254). Although Tatham refuses to reject the idea of divine intervention categorically, his position is identical to Poe’s. The doctrine that God directly intervenes in nature does great honor to God’s power, Tatham concedes, but it is easily perverted into pantheistic “materialism” which holds that nature is the “body” of God (I, 167). Natural philosophy must reject this conception, he says, and proceed by studying secondary causes, else every “ridiculous hypothesis” be given credence. Only in this way is “the beauty and contrivance, the connection and dependence so admirable in the economy of nature” upheld (I, 169) — a proposition with which Poe agrees: “each law of nature is dependent at all other points upon all other laws, and . . . all are but consequences of one primary exercise of the Divine Volition” (XVI, 255). Tatham concurs: citing W. Jones’ Principles of Natural Philosophy, he writes, “‘the wisdom of God will be infinitely magnified’ in our conception ‘if he be found to bring about those things by the mechanism of second causes, to which philosophers have determined the divine power itself to be absolutely necessary’” (I, 169).

Both Tatham’s and Poe’s discussions are based, then, on the problem of reconciling gravity and centripetal force with centrifugal force, and the specific phrase to which Poe directs attention, “the finger of God,” is found in Tatham’s discussion. Both arguments, furthermore, deal with identical issues and arrive at identical conclusions, thus strongly suggesting that Tatham inspired the passage in Eureka.

Tatham’s influence on Poe extends beyond Eureka, for Poe’s other works of the 1840’s contain frequent echoes of Tatham. For example, in his 1845 review of N. P. Willis, Poe defines the imagination as a faculty which does not create — creation is the sole province of God — [column 2:] but rather combines what God has created:

The pure imagination chooses, from either beauty or deformity, only the most combinable things hitherto uncombined, — the compound, as a general rule, partaking (in character) of sublimity or beauty, in the ratio of the respective sublimity or beauty of the things combined — which are themselves still to be considered as atomic — that is to say, as previous combinations. But, as often analogously happens in physical chemistry, so not unfrequently does it occur in this chemistry of the intellect, that the admixture of two elements will result in a something that shall have nothing of the quality of one of them — or even nothing of the qualities of either. The range of Imagination is, therefore, unlimited (17).

Hence, as Poe explains, “All novel conceptions are merely unusual combinations. The mind of man can imagine nothing which has not really existed” (X, 62). Poe cites Bielfield’s encyclopedia as confirming this theory. But Edward Tatham presents a virtually identical argument: “no energy of the human mind can actually create. It can only imitate the works of nature material or mental, and by variously joining and combining them together form new images of things, which in nature have no real existence. Hence the faculty by which these energies are exercised is called imagination. This is the proper office of poetic art in general” (I, 276-277).

Further evidence that Tatham influenced Poe in the 1 840’s is found in “The Poetic Principle,” the title of which comes from one of Tatham’s chapters.l8 Both authors share the belief that poetry can transport us beyond the fallen world we inhabit. Poetry, Tatham writes, “raises the mind above its natural condition, by accommodating its images to its desires; and not like philosophy and history by submitting the mind to the present fallen nature of things” (I, 308). In “The Poetic Principle” Poe similarly argues that the Beautiful in poetry is like “the desire of the moth for the star. It is . . . a wild effort to reach the Beauty above.” Only in poetry and music are we thus transported, Poe says, and we must live out most of our lives with “a certain, petulant, impotent sorrow at our inability to grasp now, wholly, here on earth . . . those divine and rapturous joys of which through the poem . . . we attain . . . brief and indeterminate glimpses” (XIV, 273-274).

Although Poe’s thought and Tatham’s frequently converge, Poe ultimately adopts an ironic stance toward his source. In the comments on poetry just quoted, Poe diverges from Tatham: in offering his ecstatic definition of poetic effect, and in developing Tatham’s theory that the artist combines already existing elements into new forms, Poe was not upholding Tatham’s induction but rather a theory of intuition and of the role of the artist uniquely his own. As Robert D. Jacobs argues, Poe believed that the artist was able to intuit the “beauty above” and also was able to communicate his visions to his audience (19). The public needs the artist to properly express and properly combine what God has created: like Emerson’s poet, he is a namer or sayer. Hence, in “The Poetic Principle” Poe asserts that “An axiom . . . need only be properly put to become self-evident” (XIV, 281). The difference between Poe and Tatham can clearly be seen by comparing this statement with the following from Tatham: “when philosophers and logicians assert that . . . axioms are . . . both intuitive and self-evident, great evils arise from this [page 19:] false idea . . . . But though self-evidence is very distant from intuition, all axioms though not intuitive may be properly said to be self-evident” (I, 103-104). Poe insists, both in “The Poetic Principle” and in Eureka, that axioms are intuitive, and until the artist expresses them are not self-evident (XVI, 188, 192).

And what is it that the artist’s intuition reveals? Unity. Poe hopes to see the Whole by means of a mental gyration upon the heel:

He who from the top of Aetna casts his eyes leisurely around is affected chiefly by the extent and diversity of the scene. Only by a rapid whirling on his heel could he hope to comprehend the panorama in the sublimity of its oneness. But as, on the summit of Aetna, no man has thought of whirling on his heel, so no man has ever taken into his brain the full uniqueness of the prospect; and so, again, whatever considerations lie involved in this uniqueness, have as yet no practical existence for mankind (20).

Clearly, Edward Tatham is one of those who has never thought of whirling on his heel: “It is thus the eye looks down from a rock on the whole country below,” Tatham writes, “and surveys the bearings and connexions of every part, allowing each its proper latitude and extent, and contemplating the entire landscape without mixture or confusion” (II, 335). Contemplating the parts without mixture or confusion is, of course, the opposite of what Poe hopes to accomplish. By twirling on the heel, he says, one sees the individual and particular “blended into one” (XVI, 187). Tatham’s scheme prevents contemplation of the Whole, for Tatham is concerned with the study of divine truth only as it has become fragmented and diffused by the human intellect, will, and imagination into the various arts and sciences, whereas Poe hopes to perceive divine truth in its undifferentiated oneness.

Poe’s criticism of the “savans” he discusses in the opening section of Eureka is, in every case, of their fragmentation of truth. He criticizes the Baconians for becoming so absorbed in facts that they cannot perceive the whole: the creed, text, and sermon of the Hog-ites, Poe’s Pundita remarks, “were, alike the one word ‘fact’ — but, for the most part, even of this one word, they knew not even the meaning. On those who ventured to disturb their facts with the view of putting them in order and to use, the disciples of Hog had no mercy whatever. All attempts at generalization were met at once by the words ‘theoretical,’ ‘theory,’ ‘theorist’ — all thought, to be brief, was properly resented as a personal affront to themselves” (XVI, 191). Similarly, Pundita criticizes both the followers of Ram and Mill for their reasoning from a belief that contradictions exist in nature (21). Aristotelian contraries are “altogether untenable,” she says, as is Mill’s belief that “contradictions cannot both be true” (XVI, 192, 193-94). Ramistic dichotomies similarly fragment truth into oppositional categories. But Poe, by contrast, is at great pains throughout Eureka to show that contradictions can be reconciled. And like Ram, Hog, and Miller, Edward Tatham fragments truth with his thesis of its diffusion by the human faculties.

Tatham’s scheme is not only too fragmented for Poe’s vision but also too rigidly ordered. In addition to studying truth as it has been fragmented by the will, intellect, and imagination, Tatham also endeavors to rank and chart the ensuing “truths.” But for Poe, twirling on his heel, it is important to dissolve the very idea of a chart and [column 2:] scale of truth: his solvent is intuition. Poe’s primary method of portraying intuition is through the concept of analogy. The purpose of both Tatham and Poe as natural theologians is to bring knowledge of the creator to man, and both use analogy in this effort. For example, Tatham stresses that analogic reasoning — divine testimony, he says, is analogous to human — is a fundamental principle of theology (II, 33) . “Many truths, divine and human, of the last importance to men are incapable both of direct proof and direct communication, and can only be evinced and conveyed to the understanding by this indirect and collateral channel” (I, 55-56). It is possible to draw analogies because “nature and truth are uniform . . . throughout the universe” (I, 52). Thus, “Newton, from the motion of projectiles on earth, soared with analogic wing to the motion of the planets in the heavens, encouraged by that divine resemblance pervading all the works of God, whether natural or moral, which still exists, even when they appear as contraries or contrasts.” “Even so,” Tatham adds, “may the student of theology ascend from the cultivation of human sciences, to the study of divine” (II, 9) .

With all this Poe agrees. Indeed, Poe carries these principles to the point of undermining Tatham’s concept of a hierarchy of fragmented truths. In an 1841 review of Macaulay Poe points out that it is important for the natural theologian to keep distinct “the concerns of earth” and “the nature and designs of the Deity”: “In the former case the data being palpable, the proof is direct; in the latter it is purely analogical “ (22). This is virtually identical to Tatham’s exposition of the role of analogy. But it is clear in another work written in 1841, “The Colloquy of Monos and Una,” that these analogies are perceived through intuition, through “the poetic intellect — that intellect which we now feel to have been the most exalted of all — since those truths to us were of the most enduring importance and could only be reached by that analogy which speaks in proof-tones to the imagination alone, and to the unaided reason bears no weight” (IV, 202).

What imaginative perception reveals is the view from Mount Aetna, the unity of God’s creation, for as Tatham had stared, “nature and truth are uniform” and analogous “throughout the universe.” Poe’s version of this concept is what he calls “mutuality of adaptation,” which means that since God’s creation is One, any part of it can stand for another: “In Divine constructions the object is either design or object as we choose to regard it — and we may take at any time a cause for an effect, or the converse — so that we can never absolutely decide which is which” (XVI, 292). Hence, a chain of analogies pervades the universe; because parts of creation are not oppositional but analogous — capable, that is, of substituting for each other — then it is possible for Poe to assert, as he does throughout Eureka, that poetry and truth, attraction and repulsion, matter and spirit, body and soul walk hand in hand. Hence, the artist’s perception of analogy has become intuition of “divine resemblance” or unity — has become the Reason, in Emerson’s sense, which reconciles what seems to the Understanding to be contradictions. Or what seems to the Understanding to be Tathamesque distinctions between induction and deduction supporting a chart and scale of truth, for such distinctions and divisions fragment what Poe wants [page 20:] to see whole. Poe has thus turned Tatham against himself. Tatham’s own argument that analogical reasoning rests on the uniformity of truth throughout the universe allows Poe to affirm intuitive perception of unity — intuitive perception which dissolves Tatham’s elaborately fragmented hierarchy of truth, just as spinning on the heel on Mount Aetna allows the observer to behold in the scene below “the sublimity of its oneness.”

With Tarham’s system Poe was playing the imp. Just as the imp of the perverse can upset the ordered system of phrenology, so Poe’s intuition can upset the carefully ordered world constructed in Tatham’s treatise. In the opening paragraphs of “The Imp of the Perverse,” Poe discusses the futility of constructing intellectual systems — like Tatham’s — and it is indicative of the complexity of Poe’s ironic attitude that Tatham agrees with everything Poe says. Poe argues that the human reason is “arrogant” (VI 145). Tatham agrees: “The powers of the human mind are doubtless great, but its presumption is often greater” (II, 345). Poe continues: “The intellectual or logical man, rather than the understanding or observant man, set himself to imagine designs — to dictate purposes to God. Having thus fathomed to his satisfaction the intentions of Jehovah, out of these intentions he built his innumerable systems of mind” (VI, 145) . The thought is better expressed by Poe, but Tatham fully concurs: the human mind, Tatham writes, “vainly presumes, by an action and operation of her own, to invent [principles] of a superior order, by the help of which, she may soar with rapid wing into the possession of the sublimest truth” (II, 346) . Poe concludes this whole endeavor is useless: “If we cannot comprehend God in his visible works, how then in his inconceivable thoughts, that call the works into being! If we cannot understand him in his objective creatures, how then in his substantive moods and phases of creation?” (VI, 146). Tatham agrees: “Buoyed up by these self-inventions, [the human mind] attempts unbounded flights into the fertile, but delusive regions of imagination. In these regions, was erected that edifice of hypothesis, filled with dreams and fictions, with which the pride and self-sufficiency of philosophers rendered them enamoured, and embraced them for the most valuable truth” (23).

It is likely that Tatham was the source of this passage in Poe’s tale. If so, Poe once again is simultaneously borrowing from Tatham, parodying him, and turning Tatham’s thought back upon him for The Chart and Scale of Truth is itself one of the futile inventions of the human mind. Poe’s attitude toward Tatham was complex and ironic, not the least irony of which is that Poe’s comments in the opening paragraphs of “The Imp of the Perverse” apply as well to Eureka as to The Chart and Scale of Truth. To be sure, Poe believed, as I have argued elsewhere, that in Eureka he had resolved some of the philosophical problems which had long concerned him (24). On the whole Eureka is a deeply serious work, for the fact that Poe adopted an ironic attitude toward many of his sources does not necessarily mean he was ironic toward his own conclusions. But he must have been aware that, like Tatham, he could be charged with the arrogance of reason in constructing his own universal system. Poe surely meant it — even as he parodied Tatham — when he said that he entered upon his task of writing Eureka “with a humility really unassumed” (25).



(1) Harriet R. Holman, “Hog, Bacon, Ram, and Other ‘Savans’ in Eureka: Notes Toward Decoding Poe’s Encyclopedic Satire,” Poe Newsletter, 2 (1969), 52.

(2) “Logic,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, XIII (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1842), 454. Holman, pp. 52, 53, establishes that Poe used the Britannica in writing Eureka.

(3) Tatham is not the only source for Eureka that Poe failed to mention; John Drinkwater Bethune’s writings are another exampleC see Margaret Alterton, The Origins of Poe’s Critical Theory (Iowa City: Univ. of Iowa, 1925), pp. 138-143. Poe also never mentioned explicitly several of the “savans” whom Holman discusses.

(4) Edward Tatham, The Chart and Scale of Truth Joy Which to Find the Cause of Error, ed. Edward Grinfield (London: William Pickering, 1840), 1, xxvii-xxviii, 68-69. Future references to this work will be cited parenthetically in the text.

(5) Poe at times accepted something like a general scale of truth. In “The Colloquy of Monos and Una,” a work influenced by Tatham, he writes of “the laws of gradation so visibly pervading all things in Earth and heaven.”

(6) “ ‘Seemingly Intuitive Leaps’: Belief and Unbelief in Eureka,” American Transcendental Quarterly, no. 26 (Spring 1975), pp. 4- 15. Tatham himself places his work in the school of natural theology, 11, 5.

(7) Edgar Allan Poe, Eureka, The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. James A. Harrison (1902; rpt. New York: AMS Press 1965), XVI, 185. Future references to Poe’s work will cite this edition parenthetically in the text.

(8) XVI, 195. A similar coincidence of imagery occurs on p. 266 of Eureka and 1, 85-86 of The Chart and Scale of Truth. Both Poe and Tatham speak of the difficulty of finding the path to the temple of truth.

(9) Elsewhere Tatham describes this inductive ascent as an ascent toward heaven, paralleling Poe’s inductive ascent into the universe: II, 27, 33, 66.

(10) XVI, 198. Aristotle used the terms “ascent” and “descent,” and in Ramus scheme they were important. But nineteenth-century writers very rarely used this terminology, preferring instead simply “induction” and “deduction.”

(11) Holman, p. 52.

(12) I have argued elsewhere that the most likely source of Poe’s knowledge of Ramus is John Milton’s Artis Logicae.

(13) Roland Macllmaine, trans., The Logike of the Moste Excellent Philosopher P. Ramus Martyr (Northridge, Calif.: San Fernando Valley State College, 1969; first published in 1574), paslim. For analyses of Ramus’ system, see Walter J. Ong, S.J., Ramus: Method, and the Decay of Dialogue (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1958); Wilbur Samuel Howell, Logic and Rhetoric in England, 1500-1700 (New York: Russell and Russell, 1961), Ch. 4 and Perry Miller, The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (1939; rpt. Boston: Beacon, 1970).

(14) I, 90. Tatham frequently employs this technique of dichotomization. See 1, 1, 3, 28-29, 45, 52, 220, 224, 277-278; 11, 315, 317-318.

(15) This statement is based on an examination of John Stuart Mill A System of Logic; John Quincy Adams, Lectures on Rhetoric, [page 21:] Richard Whately, Elements of Logic; Hugh Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres; George Campbell, The Philosophy of Rhetoric; and Henry Home, Lord Kames, Elements of Criticism.

(16) I, 161, xiv. Reid does not tell upon what evidence he bases his defense of Newton, but clearly it is the passage at the end of the Principia where Newton admits that he does not know how gravity operates and discusses causality and the nature of God. He does not use the phrase “the finger of God” — Sir Isaac Newton, Mathematical Principles, ed. Florian Cajoria, trans. Andrew Motte (Berkeley: Univ. of California, 1934; first published in 1729), pp. 544-547.

In A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, Edmund Burke addresses the same problem that Poe and Tatham discuss, but this could not have been a source for Poe, since Burke’s discussion is quite short and does not use the phrase “the finger of God” — J. P. Boulton, ed. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1958; first published in 1757), pp. 129-130.

In Eureka, XVI, 255, Poe uses the phrase “the finger of God” in quotation marks, rather than the phrase “the finger of the Deity” without quotation marks, as he does on p. 253.

It is not as likely, since it occurs in a different context, but the person referred to by Poe may have been Tatham himself, who wrote that the philosophy of nature “opens one of the universal books of God, in which his infinite power, his stupendous wisdom, and unbounded goodness are written with his own finger in most fair and convincing characters, and thus the material world is made the counterpart of the immaterial mind” (1, 177). There is an echo of this in Poe’s “The Purloined Letter”: “The material world abounds with very strict analogies to the immaterial.”

Although the phrase “the finger of God” has a Biblical origin (Exodus 8:19 and 31:18, Deuteronomy 9:10, and Luke 11:20), by far the more common phrase in the nineteenth century was “the hand of God.” The only other instance in the nineteenth century of “the finger of God” I have found occurs in a totally different context, in John Taylor’s political treatise, Tyranny Unmasked (Washington City: Davis and Force, 1822), p. 345.

(17) XII, 38-39. St. Armand, pp. 6-7, discusses this theory of Poe’s.

(18) Tatham also uses the phrase “the rationale of . . . poetry” (1, 325). In the table of contents Tatham’s chapter title is “The Poetic Principle”; on 1, 279, it is printed as “The Poetical Principle.”

(19) Robert D. Jacobs, Poe: Journalist and Critic (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ., 1969), Chs. XVII and XVIII.

(20) XVI, 186. Harriet R. Holman, “Splitting Poe’s ‘Epicurean Atoms’ Further Speculation on the Literary Satire of Eureka,” Poe Studies, 5 (1972), 35, suggests a satiric reading of this passage because Aetna was an active volcano in the nineteenth century. While Poe may render the visual image here absurd, I feel he is serious about his theoretical point.

(21) Tatham, 1, 346-347, says that the rule of opposites or contraries is “the least exceptionable” of Aristotle’s theories.

(22) X, 159. To be sure, in Eureka Poe criticizes Madler’s misuse of analogic reasoning (XVI, 292-294), but Poe frequently uses analogies, and the intuitive perception of analogies played an important role in his thought. See XVI, 190, 267, 275, 280.

(23) II, 346. See also Tatham I, 5-6, 363-364; II, 34, 44-48, 351-352.

(24) “Bolting the Whole Shebang Together: Poe’s Predicament,” Criticism, 15 (1973), 289-308.

(25) I would like to thank Kenneth Atchity and Barton Levi St. Armand for making helpful suggestions on earlier drafts of this article.


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[S:0 - PS, 1976]