Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. J. A. Harrison), “Review of Mephistopheles in England,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. VIII: Literary Criticism - part 01 (1902), pp. 42-43


[page 42:]


[Southern Literary Messenger, September, 1835.]

IN a long poetical dedication this book is inscribed “to the immortal spirit of the illustrious Goethe” — and the design, title, and machinery are borrowed from the Faust of that writer. The author, whoever he may be, is a man of talent, of fine poetical taste, and much general erudition. But nothing less than the vitiated state of public feeling in England could have induced him to lavish those great powers upon a work of this nature. It abounds with the coarsest and most malignant satire, at the same time evincing less of the power than of the will for causticity — and being frequently most feeble when it attempts to be the most severe. In this point it resembles the English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. The most glaring defect, however, in the structure of the book is its utter want of keeping. It appears, moreover, to have no just object or end — unless indeed we choose to consider that its object which is the object of the hero proper himself — “the hell-doomed son of Sin and Death Mephistopheles” — to cherish and foster the malice, the heart-burnings, and all evil propensities of our nature. The work must, therefore, as a whole be condemned, notwithstanding the rare qualities which have been brought to its composition. To prove that these qualities exist in a very high degree in the writer of Mephistopheles, it would only be necessary to spread before our readers the scene of the Incantation in the Hartz. It is replete with [page 43:] imagination of the most etherial kind — is written with a glow and melody of language altogether inimitable — and bears upon every sentence the impress of genius. It will be found a seasonable relief from the mingled coxcombry, pedantry, and gall which make up the body of the book. But we will confine ourselves at present to an extract of a far different nature, as affording a better exemplification of what we have previously said.

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[S:1 - JAHCW, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Review of Mephistopheles in England)