Text: Stuart and Susan Levine, “Notes (Appendix),” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan PoeEAP: Eureka (2004), pp. 167-168 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 167, continued:]

Appendix: Poe's Postscript

to a Letter about the Lecture “Eureka


sun ... he: BRP suggests that Poe assigns gender to heavenly bodies (see ¶6 below also) because that practice is followed in an unpaged article on “Moon” in volume 24 of Abraham Rees's Cyclopaedia; or, Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Literatures (London, 1802-19). That seems likely, for there is other evidence of the influence of Rees upon him, for example, Poe's odd spelling of “eccentricity” discussed in the notes to paragraph 178 of Eureka.

Kepler's Third Law: “The square of the time of revolution of any planet about the Sun is proportional to the cube of its mean distance from the Sun” (Collected Works, 3:1323n2).

gaseous ring: See notes to paragraph 172 of Eureka. This is a passage in which Eureka itself is unsound. Indeed, Twarog, who generally praises Poe's summary of science theory, responded to it with the same pejorative he used for the “Postscript” in general: “numerology.” [page 168:]


Moon ... her: See note to paragraph 2.


caloric: An archaic scientific term used for the “subtle fluid” that was the stuff of heat.

lonesome latter days: Mabbott, in Collected Works, 3:1323n4, suggests comparison with Poe's poem “The Conqueror Worm” (1843), “a gala night / Within the lonesome latter years.”

melt ... scroll!: Mabbott writes, “Compare also Isaiah 34:4, ‘And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll’; and Revelation 6:14, ‘The heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together’ ” (Collected Works, 3:1323n5).


Venus ... her: See note to paragraph 2.

Mercury's ... his: See note to paragraph 2.


Kepler's ... Theory: Woodberry, relying upon his science consultant Irving Stringham, writes, “It is stated that Kepler's first and third laws ‘cannot be explained upon the principle of Newton's theory;’ but, in fact, they follow by mathematical deduction from it. Poe's own explanation of them is merely a play upon figures” (310).


Jupiter .... diameter: Woodberry and Stringham write, “The density of Jupiter, for example, in a long and important calculation, is constantly reckoned as two and one half, whereas it is only something more than one fifth, and the densities of the planets are described as being inversely as their rotary periods, whereas in any table of the elements of the solar system some wide departures from this rule are observable” (310).


“breadth”: Woodberry and Stringham write:

A striking instance of fundamental ignorance of astronomical science is his [Poe's] statement at various places that the planets rotate (on their own axes) in elliptical orbits, and the reference he frequently makes to the breadth of their orbits (the breadth of their paths through space) agreeably to this supposition. Such a theory is incompatible with the Newtonian law of gravitation, according to which any revolution in an elliptical orbit implies a source of attraction at the focus of the ellipse. Examples of bodies which have breadth of orbit in Poe's sense are found in the satellites of all the planets, each of which, however, has its primary as a source of attraction to keep it in its elliptical orbit; the primary by its revolution round the sun gives then the satellite a breadth of orbit. But to make the proper rotation of the planets themselves take place about a focus, which would be merely a point moving in a elliptical orbit about the sun, would be to give them an arbitrary motion with no force to produce it (310-11).


truck: Poe has in mind the nautical meaning of this word: a ring or disc through which ropes pass.







[S:1 - SSLER, 2004] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - EAP: Eureka (S. and S. Levine) (Notes - Appendix)