Text: Various, “Marginalia,” Poe Studies, December 1982, Vol. XV, No. 2, 15:40-42


[page 40, 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.

MS. Found in a Bottle” and Sir David Brewster’s Letters: A Source

It is very likely that Poe derived one of the most provocative and ingenious details in “MS. Found in a Bottle” (1833) from Letters on Natural Magic, a scientific best-seller of the day. The author, the eminent scientist Sir David Brewster of Edinburgh, in the prefatory “Letter I” addressed to his friend Sir Walter Scott, indicates his intenrion of following up Scott’s Family Library volume, Letters on Demonology (1830), with this addition to the Library of 1831 as a “popular account” of “prodigies of the material world.” The resultant well-written, authoritative presentation of modern discoveries (especially in Brewster’s specialty of optics) and of technological advances had a strong appeal to Poe. It was to yield him, for example, the basis for his analysis in 1836 of Maelzel’s “Chess-Player,” as W. K. Wimsatt, Jr., has pointed out [“Poe and the Chess Automaton,” American Literature 11, (1939) ], and also the paradoxical observation about the superior effectiveness of indirect over direct vision, which he used in the 1838 Pym [see Writings, I, 72 and 237, n. 3.2A] and in the 1841 “Murders in the Rue Morgue” [Works, II, 573, n. 30]. The earliest trace of the volume — in Poe’s 1833 tale — must have come from the 1832 pirated edition of the Harpers, reprinted year after year for decades.

In masterly fashion Poe has his narrator anticipate the weird denouement by introducing the subject of the aleatory brush strokes which “ungoverned chance” led him to paint on a sail, thereby prognosticating the weird outcome of the voyage. The narrator explains: “While musing upon the singularity of my fate, I unwittingly daubed with a tar-brush the edges of a neatlyfolded studding-sail which lay near me on a barrel. The studdingsail is now bent upon the ship, and the thoughtless touches of the brush are spread out into the word DISCOVERY” [Works, 1, 142]. The kernel for this episode, wherein the opening folds of the cloth spell out a word when the “daubs” are newly juxtaposed, is a footnote anecdote given by Sir David Brewster in his discussion of “the variety of distinct forms which in a state of perfect health the imagination can conjure up when looking into a burning fire, or upon an irregularly shaded surface.” The note occurs in “Letter II” [p. 29], close to the passage about clarifying objects by looking at them indirectly [pp. 24-25]. Here, Brewster instances an experience of Peter Heaman, a Swede, who was executed for piracy and murder at Leith in 1822. It is a first-person narrative, like Poe’s, similar in involving ship-board, a sail, and a prediction of a dire future, as well as in several important words, phrases, and details:

One remarkable thing was, one day we mended a sail, it being a very thin one, after laying it upon deck in folds, I took the tar brush and tarred it over in the places which I thought needed to be strengthened. But when we hoisted it up, I was astonished to see that the tar I had put upon it represented a gallows and a man under it without a head. The head was lying beside him. He was complete, body, thighs, legs, arms, and in every shape like a man. Now, I oftentimes made remarks upon it and repeated them to the others. I always said to them all, you may depend upon it that something will happen. I afterward took down the sail on a calm day, and sewed a piece of canvas over the figure to cover it, for I could not bear to have it always before my eyes.

Clearly, Poe derived a narrative concept for his sea story directly from Brewster’s quoted paragraph. His retentive memory and fecund imagination may also have transposed this prediaive gallows image from the sail onto the chest of the “brute beast” which was to haunt the narrator to his death in “The Black Cat.”

Burton R. Pollin, Bronx Community College of CCNY, Emeritus


An Uncollected Letter of James Kirke Paulding

To promote the circulation of his journal, Thomas Willis White, founder, editor, and publisher of the Southern Literary Messenger, solicited from his friends and acquaintances their opinions of his magazine as it appeared irregularly from month to month [the spelling of White’s name follows SLM, NS 1 (August 1939), 503; the actual publication dates for specific early issues of the journal may often be determined from records of subscribers’ payments printed on the magazine’s covers]. The notices thus solicited, often puffs, appeared in newspapers like the Washington Daily National Intelligencer, the Baltimore Repub1ican, and the New York Weekly Messenger. Once the notices had appeared in the press, White reprinted them on the covers of his magazine and in the Supplements of January, April, and July 1836. As editor of the Messenger, Poe was censured for a policy established by his employer. On the October 1836 covers of the Messenger, a strongly worded statement, probably written by Poe but over White’s signature, attributed sole responsibility for publishing “Opinions of the Press” and the supplements to White, thus exonerating Poe “from the charge of vanity.”

One of the early correspondents whom White cultivated, and an admirer of Poe’s contributions to the Messenger, was the American author and statesman, James Kirke Paulding, a man with strong Southern sympathies [See Ralph M. Alderman, ea., The Letters of James Kirke Paulding (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1962)]. On 20 July 1835, from Baltimore, Poe wrote White telescopically: “As might be supposed I am highly gratified with Mr [John Hampden] Pleasants’ notice [in the Richmond, Va., Whig] and especially with Paulding’s [letter]. What Mr Pleasants says in relation to the commencement of Hans Phaal is judicious. That part of the Tale is faulty indeed — so much so that I had often thought of remodelling it entirely. I will take care & have the Letter inserted in all the Baltimore papers.”

Within a few weeks of writing to White, Poe arrived in Richmond, in August, seeking a job in Genaro Persico’s school; it is not known whether he succeeded in having all the Baltimore papers copy Paulding’s letter. The indefatigable White, however, reprinted Pleasants’ comments and Paulding’s letter under the heading “Critical Notices” on the inside front cover of the July 1835 Messenger, which appeared late, after August 7 and about ten days before Poe’s arrival; it is reprinted below, to my knowledge for the first time, together with White’s prefatory comments:

Literary Messenger. — The following high praise is bestowed on the Messenger, by that man in America from whom such praise is most valuable — James K. Paulding, to our notion, is worth a regiment of Irvings and Coopers.

En passant — Mr. Paulding speaks only of the number before the last. We should like to see his judgment on an article in the last — the voyage to the Moon, by Edgar A. Poe. We see that extraordinary production ridiculed by some, but if the merits of a production may be estimated by the effect on the reader, we at least have never perused one which caused such a dizziness of sensation. There is a great deal of nonsense, trifling and bad taste before Hans Phaal quits the earth — but when he has blown up his creditors und mounted into the solitudes of space, his speculations assume a true philosophical character, exhibit genius and invention, and if they shall ever be brought to the test of experiment, will, we are persuaded, be found wonderfully approximating to truth, and penetrative of the mysteries of creation. To our apprehension — uneducated, however, by the rules of art — there is much sublimity in his conceptions and his narrative. — Richmond: Whig.

“New York, June 26th, 1835.

“‘Dear Sir: I cannot omit expressing my thanks to you for the great pleasure I have derived from the perusal of the last number of the Literary Messenger. It is completely realizing my conviction, that there is more than amply sufficient talent in Virginia to support a periodical of the first rank; and if it is not suffered to die of neglect, will most assuredly realize all my wishes and expectations. Indeed, the last number may justly challenge equality, at least, with any of its contemporaries, at home or abroad. Its articles are uniformly good, and some of them capital. The “Dissertation on the characteristic differences of the sexes,” &c. is an admirable essay, and “Lionizing,” by Edgar A. Poe, one of the most happy traversities [sic] of the coxcombical egotism of traveling scribblers I have ever seen. Other articles possess various shades of excellence, and all of them do credit to their authors. Your state may be justly proud of the Messenger. I foresee you will succeed in your honorable undertaking. Virginia now possesses a periodical in which the first talents of your state may try their strength, without any apprehension of derogating from their dignity. Allow me to congratulate you on your success, and to offer my best wishes for its increase. am, dear sir, yours truly, J. K. PAULDING.

To Mr. T. W. White, Richmond.”

David K. Jackson, Durham, North Carolina


On First Translations of “The Raven” into German

In a “preliminary list” of first translations of Poe’s “The Raven,” W T Bandy [Poe Studies, 13 (1980), 36] states that the earliest translation into German is Adolph Strodtmann’s of 1862 [see Lieder- und Balladentuch amerikanischer und englischer Dichter der Gegenwart: In den Versmassen der Originale ?‘bersetzt und von Lebensskizzen der Verfasser begleitet (Hamburg: Hoffmann & Campe]. This is, in fact, the first translation into German published in an anthology. But, as in France, there are earlier translations which appeared in magazines.

The first translation into German is by Elise Von Hohenhausen, published in Magazin fsur die Literatur des Auslandes, 43 (11 June 1853), 280; together with Blatter fur literarische Unterhaltung, the Magazin was the most important German periodical in the nineteenth century for the reception of foreign literature Two other translations of “The Raven” into German also precede Strodtmane’s of 1862: Alexander Neidhardt’s in Arch f7ir das Stvdinm der neveren Sprachen, 19 (1856), 185-187, and Louise von Ploennies’ shortened version, again in the Magazin, 51 (3 November 1857), 519-520. It may be of interest to note that after Strodtmann there are at least fourteen other German translations of this poem.

The information in this note is based on research carried out by a translations study group at the English Department of Georg August University

Erika Hulpke, The Georg August University, Gottingen, Germany [page 42:]


Performances of Operas Based on Poe’s Fiction: A Supplementary Listing

In the course of research into operas concerning Poe, we have encountered performances of operas based on the fiction that are not listed in May Garrettson Evans’ Music and Edgar Allan Poe [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1939] or in Burton R. Pollin’s subsequent updatings of that bibliography: “More Music to Poe,” [Music and Letters, 54 (1973), 391-404], and “Music and Edgar Allan Poe: A Second Annotated Check List,” [Poe Studies, 15 (1982), 7-13. The latter was in the process of publication when this note was originally submitted — the editors.] The following list is offered as a supplement to these bibliographies: its entries present, in order, the composer, title, librettist if known, and place and date of performance. We wish to thank Maria F. Rich, administrative director of Central Opera Service, for her aid with this compilation, and we would welcome receipt of other information concerning operatic treatments of Poe’s life and work not covered here or in Evans and Pollin.

Aperghis, George. Je ruoul dis que je suis mort [ ‘William Wilson”] (F. Regnaulr), Ensemble Intercontemporain, Paris, Spring 1979. [In the performance, William Wilson, Augusre Dupin, and Arthur Gordon Pym unire around the death bed of M. Valdemar.]

Blacher, Boris. Das Gehinunil des entwendeten Briefes [“The Purloined Letter”], Academy of Music, Berlin, 14 February 1975.

Czerny-Hydzik, Thomas. T he Tell-Tale Heart, Prince George’s Civic Opera, Largo, Maryland, 27 December 1979.

Hamm, Charles E. The Cask of Amontillado, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, I March 1953.

Haskins, Roberr James. Mask of the Red Death (John Koppenhaver), Universiq of Dayton, 25-28 February 1976

Horacek, Leo. The Tell-Tale Heart (Joseph Golz), Opera Theatre of West Virginia, Morgantown, 7 August 1968.

Lackey, Lionel. Ligeia (Lackey), Sanra Cruz Opera Socieq, Santa Cruz, California, 4 May 1980.

Loomis, Clarence. The Fall of the House ot Usher (Loomis), Block’s Audirorium, Indianapolis, 11 January 1941 [see Pollin 1982].

Para, Donald. The Cask of Amontillado, Western Michigan Universiq, Kalamazoo, May 1979.

Perry, Julia. The Cask of Amontillado (Perry), McMillan Academic Theater, Columbia University, 20 November 1954 [see Pollin 1982 for copyright information].

Provenzano, Aldo. The Cask of Amontillado (Provenzano), Eastman School of Music, Rochesrer, New York, 26 April 1968.

Rehrer, William. The Tell-Tale Heart (Rehrer), University of Washington, March 1980.

Sandow, G. The Fall of the Honse of Usher (T. Disch), Music in Our Time. New York, 1975; Bel Canto Opera, New York, 3 February 1979 [the first date was a concert performance; the second, the stage premiere].

John L. Idol, Jr., and Sterling K. Eisiminger, Clemson University


Music and Edgar Allan Poe: Addendum to Part I

A recent personal visit to the Library of Congress Music Division library permitted an on-screen examination of the computerized file of the post-1976 unpublished music copyright entries, each given a “PAu” number (as shown below). The composers of the “Poe pieces” are given below [the following list could not be published with the bibliography itself in number 1 of this volume because of space restrictions — the editors]:

Blanc, Steven and Larry Pitilli: music and lyrics for “Benjamin Poe: newest revision.” PAu302-461.

Boehm, A. W.: “Annabel Lee.” PAu457-620; and “Dream within a Dream.” PAu157-619.

Cotton, J. V.: “Dream within a Dream” for soprano, flute, cello, and piano. PAu312-731.

Ducharme, Jay: “Annabel Lee,” recitative for voice and contrabass. PAu287-011.

Enos, Joseph T.: “Two Songs for a Contralto” plus “Pity Me Not” by Edna Millay. 19 Nov. 52. EU284658.

Forte, Aldo Rafael: “Symphonic Poem for Band,” “Fall of the House of Usher.” PAu82-826.

Garrignerc, Pierre: “Lost Beloved — song cycle on Poe poems” for baritone and orchestra, op. 28 PAu214-981. [column 2:]

Geist, John: “The Lake —. To . . . .” Bella Roma Music (presumably copyright claimant).

Levy, Ron: “Eldorado” for bass-baritone. PAu167-172.

Reeves, Brian: “Pit and Pendulum,” “Cask of Amontillado,” “Usher,” “Tell-Tale Heart.” PAu191-814 through 816 and PAu216-671.

Seeger, Charles: “To Helen.” PAu288-003.

Smith, Gene and Rick Webb; lyrics by Julie Gaughf: “Tell-Tale Heart.” PAu259-922.

Thompson, Kris: “Iron Bells.‘’ PAuS56u918.

Wasserman, Jeffrey: “Annabel Lee.” PAu107-964.

Wetzel, H. M.: “Cask of Amontillado.” PAu75u326. White, Bradley: “Annabel Lee.” PAu322-326.

Burton R. Pollin, Bronx Community College of CCNY, Emeritus


Associated Article(s) and Related Material:

  • None


[S:0 - PSDR, 1980]