Text: Various, “Marginalia,” Poe Studies, June 1976, Vol. IX, No. 1, 9:21-23


[page 21, column 2:]


This column is devoted to brief notes, comments, queries. We wish to provide here an outlet for such items as source notes which do not require the extended argument and proof that customarily attends them, and for items of very special or peculiar interest which otherwise might not appear. Contributions to this column should generally be one paragraph in form and less than a page and a half of typescript, though notes of three pages with as many paragraphs are acceptable.

“Ligeia” and “The Conqueror Worm”

Criticism to date has not examined closely enough the significance of Poe’s inclusion of “The Conqueror Worm” (1843) in the 1845 version of “Ligeia.” The poem and the scene of Rowena’s death in the turret exhibit correspondences of setting, tone, and theme, similarities which provide a perspective for the dramatic return of Ligeia. The tragic death theme of the poem is reversed by the affirmation of Ligeia’s rebirth, a reversal which emphasizes the importance of the battle won by the human will. At the same time, the poem’s image of the human “drama” as a vain, circular quest for an ungraspable “phantom” is not inconsistent with interpretations of Ligeia’s return as the result of the narrator’s opium-ridden imagination.

The poem is set in a “theatre” [The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. James A. Harrison (1902; rpt. New York: AMS Press, 1965), 11, 256, 1. 5. Subsequent references by line or page refer to this text] at “night” (1. 1) within “the lonesome latter years” (1. 2). The turret sequence, in parallel, occurs at “night, near the closing in of September” (262) in an abbey theatrically decorated, although the scene enacted there has an audience of only one, the narrator. The music of the spheres is breathed A fitfully” (1. 7) by the orchestra of the poem, foreshadowing the wind in the bridal chamber which gives “a hideous and uneasy animation to the whole” (261). Shifting scenery appears in both “theatres.” “The wind was rushing hurriedly behind the tapestries” (262) in Rowena’s chamber; in the poem the “scenery” (1. 14) shifts “to and fro” (1. 14). The poem’s “rush of a storm” (1. 36) is directly echoed in the “wind . . . rushing hurriedly” (262) and “the rushing atmosphere” (268) of Rowena’s chamber. “The curtain, a funeral pall,” which “comes down” (11. 35-36) to end the poetic play of “hopes and fears” (1.6) has a parallel in the tapestry hung in Rowena’s mausolean chambre, “tapestry of a material which was found alike as a carpet on the floor, as a covering for the ottomans and the ebony bed, as a canopy for the bed, and as the gorgeous volutes of the curtains” (260). Setting and tone are closely intertwined. The desolation and despair prevalent in “The Conqueror Worm” are complemented by the general atmosphere of the castle in which Rowena is to die.

An abbey . . . in one of the wildest and least frequented portions of fair England. The gloomy and dreary grandeur of the building, the almost savage aspect of the domain, . . . had much in unison with the feelings of utter abandonment which had driven me into that remote and unsocial region. (258)

The “Madness” (1. 23) and “Horror” (1. 24) informing the plot of A the tragedy, ‘Man,’” in the poem foreshadow the narrator’s descriptions of his mental state and reactions in the later scene: “inexpressible madness,” “mad disorder” (268), “incipient madness” (258); “unutterable horror” (265), “extremity of horror,” “unspeakable horrors of that night” (266). The poem’s “more of Sin” (1. 23) may anticipate a murder in the turret sceneC the administering of the drops of “ruby colored fluid” (263) to Rowena, whether by the ghostly presence of Ligeia or, as some commentators suggest, by the narrator. Correspondences in the sequence of action reinforce these parallels. The “mutter and mumble low” (1. 10) of the mimes in the poem is reflected by the “slight sounds” (262) Rowena harkens to in her chamber. The apartment’s “unusual motions” are anticipated by the “vast formless things / That shift the scenery to and fro / Flapping from [page 22:] out their condor wings / Invisible Wo!” (11. 13-16). A similar “Wo” strikes Rowena, revealed by “a deadly pallor, overspreading her face” (263). The “blood-red” “crawling shape” (11. 26-27) — the Conqueror Worm of death — which feeds on the mimes in the poem’s drama is reflected in the “ruby drops” (264) which destroy Rowena. During the chase in the poem’s drama, the “Phantom” (1. 19) cannot be “seized.” If one interprets Ligeia’s return as an hallucination, then both the narrator’s yearning for her as well as Ligeia’s effort to conquer death would constitute similarly unsuccessful quests after phantoms. Finally, the last four lines of the poem align with the last two paragraphs of the tale, each climaxing in an act of “unveiling” (1. 38). Lady Rowena’s body, “arising from the bed, . . . advanced boldly and palpably” into the apartment (267). “She let fall from her head, unloosened, the ghastly cerements which had confined it” (268). The narrator, like the angels of the poem, then gives a title, as it were, to the drama he has witnessed. “Here then . . . can I never be mistaken — these are the full . . . and the wild eyes . . . of the LADY LIGEIA” (268) .

After the narrator recites “The Conqueror Worm,” Ligeia says of her poem, “shall this Conqueror be not once conquered?” An answer is given in the turret scene as an affirmation of the will seems to be realized by her return. The conclusion of the poem brings the curtain fall with death supreme, while the tale’s conclusion, in my opinion significantly discrepant from the poem’s, brings the triumph of the will and life. In this case, the juxtaposition of the poem and tale, the reversal from death to life, heightens the dramatic impact of the will’s triumph.

Michael Tritt, Marianopolis College


Two Notes: A Joseph H. Clarke Manuscript and Something about a Mr. Persico


Now in the possession of a great granddaughter of Neilson and Josephine Emily Clemm Poe, Mrs. D. M. Skinner, Jr. (nee Mary Lee Poe), is a one-page manuscript of reminiscences signed by Joseph H. Clarke, one of Poe’s Richmond schoolmasters. Mrs. Skinner has kindly permitted me to copy the manuscript, which may have been written in the 1870’s and which in several’ details follows the account of Poe related by Joseph H. Clarke to Eugene L. Didier in a letter of April 16, 1876, in the Houghton Library of Harvard University. The Clarke manuscript is pasted in a book of Poe memorabilia entitled “The Poe Family of Maryland.” Below the title appears this explanatory note: “This Record is made up in 1906 from Family Papers now in the possession of Amelia Poe, daughter of Neilson and Josephine Emily Clemm Poe, and is correct, as far as possible.” Although Poe biographers quote Clarke frequently and note his faulty memory, only one of his manuscripts, the letter in the Houghton Library, has been reported as extant, so far as I can determine. The reminiscences follow; the original punctuation is retained.

Edgar . Poe of Richmond . having lost his parents when a child was adopted by Mr. John Allan of Richmond as his son — At 5 years Old . he was sent by . Mr A to England and placed under the care of his maiden sister — At 8 years . old Mr. A. recalled — him to Richmond and placed him in Mr J H Clarkes Grammar School in the year 1818 — where he continued till he was prepared to go to the University of Virginia — Edgar was an uncommon bright youth — at 12 years old he was master of Horace and Livy and was reading in the 13th. book of Homers Illiad — He had a great liking for English & Latin Poetry — He would for . an Evenings exercise turn 25 lines of Latin verse into english poetry without any labor — While tending Mr Clarkes instruction he composed a Poem of fugitive pieces and was very urgent with M Allen to have them published, but Mr. A. after consulting with Mr. C. upon the propriety, declined gratifying the young aspirant —

Jos H Clark



In March 1835, Poe unsuccessfully sought a job as a teacher in a Baltimore public school’ [see Poe to J. P. Kennedy, March 15, 1835, in John W. Ostrom, The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe (New York: Gordian Press, 1966), 1, 56] and a few months later, m August 1835, a “Professorship” in a Richmond academy kept by a “Mr. Persico.” Killis Campbell [Modern Language Notes, [column 2:] 51 (1936), 487-488] was the first to call attention to “The copy of a letter from Mrs. Margaret K. Ellis (wife of Charles H. Ellis, Allan’s partner in the conduct of his business) in the letter-files of Ellis and Allan under the date of August 19, 1835, in which this sentence appears: ‘Edgar Poe is here, & I understand has applied for one of the Professorships in the Academy’ [kept by a Mr. Persico].” He is perhaps none other than Genaro Persico, whom Benjamin Blake Minor in a letter to Lyon G. Tyler [“Virginia’s Past Portraiture,” William and Mary College Querterly, 2 (July 1893), 136] described as a fellow vestryman: “The record of St. James [Episcopal] Church shows that Genaro Persico, John Williams, and Dr. James Beale were its building committee, and Persico endeavored to interest in its behalf Mr. Wm. Strickland, a prominent architect of Phila. He was its zealous friend in its infancy and severe early struggles, and was one of its vestry, but not a warden. He was an amateur artist and was for some years at the head of a school for girls; but, after the death of his wife, he discontinued his institution and became a professional artist. I do not recollect any of his work in oil, or colors; but he so excelled in portraits, in crayon, that I engaged him to go to Fred’sburg to take a likeness of my father, which he did.” Persico also did a crayon portrait of a Colonel Meriwether Smith and a portrait of Joseph Carrington Cabell, owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia and exhibited by the Virginia Historical Society between April 29 and May 25, 1929. On losing the “Professorship,” Poe wrote to Maria Clemm on August 29, 1835, “The situation has this morning been conferred upon another. Branch T. Saunders” [Letters, I, 70], and sought consolation in T. W. White’s engaging him on the Southern Literary Messenger for a salary of sixty dollars a month. As yet I have been unable to find anything about Saunders, Poe’s successful competitor for the “Professorship.” A re-examination of all published evidence including the T. W. White-Lucian Minor correspondence indicates that in August 1835 Poe came to Richmond seeking a teaching job in a girls’ school and ended up with an editorial job assisting White on the Messenger.

David K. Jackson, Durham, North Carolina


Dickens’ “A Madman’s Manuscript” and
“The Tell-Tale Heart”

Edith Smith Krappe [American Literature, 12 (1940), 84-88] has drawn attention to parallels between “The Tell-Tale Heart” and Dickens’ “A Confession Found in a Prison,” published in Master Humphrey’s Clock in April 1840. Her argument was taken up in these columns [6 (1973), 12-14] by Laurence Senelick, who also refers parenthetically to “A Madman’s Manuscript,” the bizarrerie a la Blackwood’s included in the fourth number of The Pickwick Papers, and the possible influence of which on “Ligeia” Benjamin Franklin Fisher IV discusses in the article following Senelick’s [pp. 14-16]. I wish to supplement these contributions by suggesting that the correspondences between “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “A Madman’s Manuscript” are also worthy of attention. Poe’s fascination with the tale is sufficiently clear, as Fisher reminds us, from his reproduction of its bulk verbatim in his review of Pickwick in the Southern Literary Messenger.

Like Dickens’ story, “The Tell-Tale Heart” is the first-person narration by a madman of a murderous assault. The narrative details surrounding the murder (Poe) and attempted murder (Dickens) are strikingly similar. Apart from the use of blades in the threat on the wife in Dickens and the dismembering of the old man in Poe, both assaults reach their climax in a frantic leap from temporary paralysis and fixation on the victims’ gaze (Dickens: “Her eyes were fixed on mine. I know not how it was, but they cowed and frightened me; and I quailed beneath them. She rose from the bed, still gazing fixedly and steadily on me. I trembled; the razor was in my hand, but I could not move. She made towards the door. As she neared it, she turned, and withdrew her eyes from my face. The spell was broken. I bounded forward, and clutched her by the arm. Uttering shriek upon shriek, she sunk upon the ground.” All Dickens quotations are from Robert L. Patten’s Penguin edition [London: Penguin Books, [page 23:] 1972], pp. 219-237. Poe: “I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. . . . With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once — once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor. . . .” All Poe quotations are from The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. James A. Harrison [1902; rpt. New York, AMS Press, 1965], V, 88-94). Furthermore, both crimes lead to admissions of guilt that are remarkably abrupt in terms of external motivation, and which combine accusations of hypocrisy with confessions (Dickens: “‘You villain,’ said 1, ‘I found you out; I discovered your hellish plots against me; I know her heart was fixed on someone else before you compelled her to marry me. I know it — I know it’”; Poe: “‘Villains!’ I shrieked, ‘dissemble no more! I admit the deed! — tear up the planks! here, here’ ”). Both tales end, appropriately, in hallucination, Dickens’ narrator feeling that he is “borne upon the arms of demons who swept along upon the wind,” Poe’s having the aural delusion of the beating heart.

It is equally important to note that in both tales these events are presented in the larger context of a deranged parody of methodical’ self-analysis. The mental condition of the narrators is made apparent by similar descriptive and stylistic means. The gestures of both are outrageous (Dickens: “It was for me to smile. To smile! To laugh outright, and tear my hair, and roll upon the ground with shrieks of merriment”; Poe: “I foamed — I raved — I swore! — ”) . Typographically, both offer a bumper crop of dashes, exclamation points, and italics (Dickens: “Ho! ho! It’s a grand thing to be mad! to be peeped at like a wild lion through the iron bars — to gnash one’s teeth and howl . . . — and to roll’ and twine among the straw . . . Hurrah for the madhouse! Oh, it’s a rare place!”; Poe: “It grew louder — louder — louder! . . . Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! — no, no! They heard! — they suspected! — they knew! — they were making a mockery of my horror! — ”). The obsessive tone of this melodramatic anaphora is further enforced by the intrusion into the narratives of prolonged asides (Dickens: “I remember — though it’s one of the last things I can remember, for now I mix up realities with my dreams . . .”; Poe: “It grew louder, I say, louder every moment — do you mark me well? I have told you that I am nervous: so I am”). The last device is essential to the narrators’ strategies of desperate self-justification (rather than self-exculpation, for neither admits to guilt), which proceed in similar styles although on different grounds, Poe’s madman trying to convince us from the start of his sanity, Dickens’ of his hereditary madness, this antithesis itself perhaps evidence of disguised influence.

Edward Strickland, York University


Poe’s Friend Downey Identified

A soldier named Downey was in Company H of the 3rd United States Artillery at Fort Monroe, Virginia, at the same time Poe was there. Poe refers to him in a letter dated May 3, 1830 [John Ostrom, The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe (New York: Gordian, 1966), I, 36] and knew him well enough to recognize him off the base in Baltimore. The letter was to Samuel “Bully” Graves, Poe’s substitute, for whom his stepfather John Allan had put up the money so that Poe could buy his way out of the Army in order to enter West Point. Poe not only corrected Graves’ impression that he had sent money to repay Allan by Private Downey, but also put his stepfather in a rather bad light:

As to what you say about Downey Mr A very evidently misunderstood me, and I wish you to understand that I never sent any money by Downey whatsoever — Mr A is not very often sober — which accounts for it — I mentioned to him that I had seen Downey at Balto., as I did, & that I wished to send it on by him, but he did not intend going to the point.

Hervey Allen identifies Downey only as “a soldier” in his biography [Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe (New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1934), p. 730]; Ostrom notes that “Downey remains unidentified” [Letters, 1, 37n.]. In the course of working on a study of Poe, I have been able to identify Downey through the help of military archivists Elaine C. Everly and Timothy [column 2:] E. Nenninger of the Navy and Old Army Branch of the Archives Department, Washington, D.C., who located three Regular Army enlistments for Downey and also a bounty land application file (BLWT 65853-55-160), from which I extract the following information. Thomas Downey of Reading, Pennsylvania (Bucks County), “musician,” first enlisted, at age twenty-two, on September 7, 1827, for a two-and-a-half-year period; again on June 3 1830, for two years; and a third time on August 21, 1834, for three years. On April 17, 1832, he enlisted for five years in the Marine Corps. He was discharged on September 22, 1836, “on Surgeon’s certificate of Disability . . . for the loss of his left thumb” at Fort Monroe. On August 22, 1842, Downey again enlisted in the United States Navy for four years and re-enlisted on June 22, 1846, at Headquarters. He died on July 29, 1848 [Register of Deaths in the United States Marine Corp: Accretion, NM 365029, Vol. I, “D,” Record Group No 127]. Downey’s widow, Mary Ann Hughes, who had remarried, applied on February 4, 1857, at age fifty-five, for a Land Bounty Claim under the Act of March 3, 1855, “for her minor children,” Downey having been “a private in the war with the Florida Indians in 1835-36”and “having lost his life while in the service.” The children’s names were listed as Paul and Peter (twins), born November 30, 1837; Cecilia born January 11, 1841, Margaret born February 1, 1842, Francis Henry born March 16, 1844, and Catherine, born September 26, 1846. “Neither Paul’s name nor Cecilia’s appears in the enumeration of the children’s names on Notary Public Nourse’s guardianship paper; whether it is an oversight, or whether the children were deceased is not explained.]

These documents obviously concern one and the same Thomas Downey, for all three enlistment applications give his birthplace as Reading, Pennsylvania, and his occupation as “a musician,” and agree that the “Recruit has blue eyes, Brown hair, Light complexion, [and] is five feet ten inches high.” Downey’s father’s name is given on Downey’s disability discharge record as George Hooper, “a Drummer of Captain 1. Heilerman’s Company Corps of Artillery, who enlisted 1 August 1810 for 5 years and was discharged 31st of July 1815, by Expiration of service. Again enlisted 1st August, 1815, for 5 years, in the same Company, and Died 21st June 1820.” Thomas Downey may also have been a drummer. Incidentally, the Examining Surgeon Rob Archer, who examined Thomas Downey at his second enlistment at Fort Monroe (June 3, 1830), attended Poe in January 1829 when he was in the military hospital “prostrated by some sort of fever,” Hervey Allen notes. Archer was an uncle of Mrs. Susan Archer Weiss, “one of Poe’s minor biographers” [p. 186 and n.].

G. W. Sherman, San Jose, California


A Possible Debt to Cooper

However much Poe might have disliked Cooper’s narrative technique, it is possible that he borrowed from Cooper the heraldic motto “Nemo me impune lacessit” inscribed upon Montresor’s family coat of arms in “The Cask of Amontillado.” This motto, perhaps more than any other detail, unequivocally confirms for us the intentions of the demented narrator. In Chapter Sixteen of Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicam (1826) , Munro, commander of Fort William Henry, exclaims against the knighthood of the French Commander Montcalm, who has besieged the fort. French knighthood, Munro declares, “can be bought with sugar-hogsheads!” But of his own Scots-English knighthood, Munro proudly declares, “The thistle is the order for dignity and antiquity: the veritable nemo me impune lacessit of chivalry.” Poe may have drawn his motto from another source. E. W. Carlson notes that this is the “motto of the Scottish royal coat of arms” Introduction to Poe: A Thematic Reader (Glenview, Ill.: Scott, Foresman, 1967), p. 573]. And Stuart and Susan Levine note the appearance of this motto using the future tense “Laceslet” in Noctes Ambrosianae [The Short Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe: An Annotated Edition (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1976), p. 470]. But Poe’s familiarity with Cooper makes it as probable that Poe’s source is The Last of the Mohicans.

Edward Craney Jacobs, Louisiana Tech University


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