Text: Clarence S. Brigham, “[Contributions for 1840 (Jan. - March)],” Edgar Allan Poe’s Contributions to Alexander’s Weekly Messenger (1943), pp. 19-62 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 19:]

[January 1, 1840, page 4, column 6] [[TOM R-03]]


The last number of this popular paper comes to us with a fine portrait of Miss C. M. Sedgwick, engraved by Parker, from a painting by Ingham. The literary contents are, as usual, excellent, with the exception of a very silly “theory of dreaming” by Rufus Dawes, a gentleman who had much better dismiss all hope of attaining eminence as a metaphysician, and stick to the Camenœ. He has perpetrated more downright nonsense, in his attempts to look profound, than any man of the age. His “Athenia of Damascus” did him credit, and his minor poems are mostly good. [page 20:] It is a pity that he should make a fool of himself in meddling with a science about which he knows absolutely nothing.

All the other papers are very good. A well written critical notice commends, in the highest terms, Mr. Poe’s “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.” We attribute this to the pen of General Morris; and it certainly has a double weight in coming from him; for, if we are not mistaken, Mr. Poe evinced much hostility to the “Mirror” during his editorship of the Southern Literary Messenger. Or, perhaps, his thrusts were aimed only at the author of Norman Leslie? At all events the criticism in last Saturday’s paper looks high minded and well, and does the Mirror credit.

NOTE: The above editorial has evidence of Poe’s authorship, especially the personal reference to the Mirror’s review of Poe’s Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. The New York Mirror in question was the issue of December 28, 1839. The criticism of Rufus Dawes’s “A Theory of Dreaming” was quite in line with Poe’s variable opinion of that author — treating a novel by Dawes favorably in Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine in December 1839, receiving from Burton himself a letter of May 30, 1839, complaining of an unfair Poe criticism of Dawes (Quinn, Edgar Allan Poe, 1941, p. 281), assailing Dawes’s ability as a metaphysician in the above article, and writing for Graham’s Magazine for October 1842 a condemnatory opinion of Dawes as a poet.

Poe was invariably friendly to Morris and perhaps at this time would not have been averse to being connected with the Mirror. It is true that Poe’s destructive criticism of “Norman Leslie” in the Southern Literary Messenger for December 1835 was aimed at Theodore S. Fay rather than at the Mirror.


[January 15, 1840, page 2, columns 1-2] [[TOM R-04]]


This word is properly spelt Daguerreotype, and pronounced as if written Dagairraioteep. The inventor’s name is Daguerre, but the French usage requires an accent on the second e, in the formation of the compound term.

The instrument itself must undoubtedly be regarded as the most important, and perhaps the most extraordinary triumph of [page 21:] modern science. We have not now space to touch upon the history of the invention, the earliest idea of which is derived from the camera obscura, and even the minute details of the process of photogeny (from Greek words signifying sun-painting) are too long for our present purpose. We may say in brief, however, that a plate of silver upon copper is prepared, presenting a surface for the action of the light, of the most delicate texture conceivable. A high polish being given this plate by means of a steatitic calcareous stone (called Daguerreolite) and containing equal parts of steatite and carbonate of lime, the fine surface is then iodized by being placed over a vessel containing iodine, until the whole assumes a tint of pale yellow. The plate is then deposited in a camera ob-scura, and the lens of this instrument directed to the object which it is required to paint. The action of the light does the rest. The length of time requisite for the operation varies according to the hour of the day, and the state of the weather — the general period being from ten to thirty minutes — experience alone suggesting the proper moment of removal. When taken out, the plate does not at first appear to have received a definite impression — some short processes, however, develope it in the most miraculous beauty. All language must fall short of conveying any just idea of the truth, and this will not appear so wonderful when we reflect that the source of vision itself has been, in this instance, the designer. Perhaps, if we imagine the distinctness with which an object is reflected in a positively perfect mirror, we come as near the reality as by any other means. For, in truth, the Daguerreotyped plate is infinitely (we use the term advisedly) is infinitely more accurate in its representation than any painting by human hands. If we examine a work of ordinary art, by means of a powerful microscope, all traces of resemblance to nature will disappear — but the closest scrutiny of the photogenic drawing discloses only a more absolute truth, a more perfect identity of aspect with the thing represented. The variations of shade, and the gradations of both linear and aerial perspective are those of truth itself in the supremeness of its perfection.

The results of the invention cannot, even remotely, be seen — but all experience, in matters of philosophical discovery, teaches [page 22:] us that, in such discovery, it is the unforeseen upon which we must calculate most largely. It is a theorem almost demonstrated, that the consequences of any new scientific invention will, at the present day exceed, by very much, the wildest expectations of the most imaginative. Among the obvious advantages derivable from the Daguerreotype, we may mention that, by its aid, the height of inaccessible elevations may in many cases be immediately ascertained, since it will afford an absolute perspective of objects in such situations, and that the drawing of a correct lunar chart will be at once accomplished, since the rays of this luminary are found to be appreciated by the plate.

NOTE: This article is much in Poe’s style. He was interested in scientific studies, in etymology, and in the lunar system, mention of which occupies the concluding paragraph. He wrote on improvements in the daguerreotype in Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine for April and May 1840, vol. 6, pp. 192, 246. His insistence in the above article on the proper accenting of “daguerreotype” was not followed by his own com-positors — soon afterwards the word was completely Anglicized. Professor Quinn calls my attention to the point that the statement that we must calculate upon the unforeseen element is similar to Poe’s method of arguing in his “Murders in the Rue Morgue.” There was much interest in Philadelphia in the recently invented daguerreotype. Nearly all of the magazines and newspapers carried accounts of this invention. Prof. W. R. Johnson lectured there on the subject on December 31, 1839, of which there was a detailed report in the Public Ledger of January 1, 1840.


[January 15, 1840, page 2, column 4] [[TOM P-01]]


Some weeks since, in an editorial article under this head, we mentioned that, with a proper method, it would be easy to decipher any piece of writing in which arbitrary signs were made use of in place of proper alphabetical characters — pledging ourselves, at the same time, to read any thing which should be sent to us thus written. In consequence, we have received the following letter: —

To the Editors of Alexander’s Messenger.

DEAR SIR: — Having noticed in a late number of the Messenger, an article headed “Enigmatical and Conundrumical” in which [page 23:] there is a very curious riddle, unriddled by you, and in which you say that you pledge yourself to read any hieroglyphical writing, I have been induced to send you the following specimen of a puzzle, and beg you to give a translation in the Messenger.

Yours, very respectfully, H.


O  9?  9  2ad;  as  385  n8338d—  ?†  sod—3

—86a5:  —8x  8537

95:  37od:  o—  h—8shn  3a  sqd?8d—  ?†  —og37

—8x8539  95:

Sod—3  o—  9  ?o—1708xah—  950?9n  ?†  50537

—8x8537  95:

Sod—3  o[[—]]  378  n9338d—  858?†  ?†  38537

—8x8537  95:  sod—3

H!!ads3—  nos8 ?†  sahd37  sos37  —8x8537  95:

—og37  o—9

Sdho3  ?†  sahd37  95:  80;737  o—  9  !a28dshn

o?!  n8?853

?†  27an8  o5:otg38—  9  2038  ?95

Our correspondent will know by the date of his communication, that we could only have received it on the morning when we go to press (Tuesday) — consequently we must have read his puzzle instanter. We assure him that it gave us no trouble whatever. He will observe, however, that he has committed several errors in his alphabet. For example “implement” is divided into two words, and “wise” is written “wite” — nor has he made any punctuation. The difficulty of deciphering is, of course, increased. We not only translate his enigma, but give its solution. It is as follows: —


I am a word of ten letters. My first, second, seventh and third is useful to farmers; my sixth, seventh, and first is a mischievous animal; my ninth, seventh, and first is the latter’s enemy; my tenth, seventh, and first supports life; my fourth, fifth, seventh [page 24:] and sixth is a fruit; my fourth, fifth and eighth is a powerful implement; my whole indicates a wise man.

The answer is “Temperance.”

NOTE: This, the first of the several enigmas and cyphers, is unquestionably by Poe, proved by his later statements in Graham’s Magazine, as noted in the introduction to this paper. Poe refers to at least two errors in the contributor’s alphabet and there were several other printings of wrong letters in the cypher. Henceforth there will be no further statements in the Notes as to Poe’s authorship of the enigma and cypher articles, which is assumed. The set-up of the cyphers as here printed follows closely the typography of the Messenger, even although the words were often not properly spaced, and in some cases incorrect type was used.


[January 22, 1840, page 2, column 5] [[TOM P-02]]


A correspondent sends us a very curious looking piece of MS indeed, in which the characters are the ugliest and drollest hieroglyphics imaginable (we having no type in our office which would come within a mile of them) and requests us to give him the translation, according to a promise made some weeks ago — a promise, by the way, which our friend does not seem to think it likely we will keep, for the good reason that we cannot. We leave him, however, to judge for himself. The translation of what he has sent us, is as follows:

“We are all anxiously looking for the arrival of the enlarged Messenger in the village of Cheviot, Ohio, which, if it equals the editor’s description, and consequently our high anticipations, we shall be much gratified to peruse, as we are already much pleased with the present volume.”

The writer says in a note, “Just let us into the secret, as we are fond of the marvellous.” Well, what will he give us for the secret? — it is a wonderful one and worth paying for. Let him send us on a list of forty subscribers, with the money, and we will give him a full explanation of our whole method of proceeding.

[page 25:]


Just as we were going to press we received the following from some one in the city:

Observing that you are good at deciphering puzzles, I send you the following, similar to one published in your last. I assure you that it is bona fide, a sensible affair. I shall feel much pleased if you will publish it in your next, with a solution.

For Alexander’s Weekly Messenger.

6!  6793,*47

895,41||4!.  85675 !3  ¶395  ,†6::  †3:||  †59  ,061

95*29!4!.  956,3!  [56¶  6  .:6|| ||5!4!,  961

5!4,†*5!4!.  (955||3¶ !559  †59  [6!!59  06‡5

?2,:475  6!||  °92*† ,†6::  ¶55*  6!  569:1  .96‡5

2:||50  *†l  4!(:25!75  ,†6:: !6*43!,  [30

||4,739||  6!||  7†63.  ¶69§  *†l  5!‡432,  [930

4¶659432,  ¶3!,*59 !6*295,  ||56||:45,*  (35

732:||  55!  859(57*43!  (:1  *†1  *†956*!4!.  [:30

5*59!6:  ,7329.5  3(  †6884!5,,  [5:30

A. B. T.

We reply that it will afford us the greatest pleasure to do so, at once. The translation is as follows: —


P residing Peace no more shall hold her sway,

R eturning Reason beam a gladening ray,

E nlightening Freedom ne’er her banner wave,

J ustice and Truth shall meet an early grave;

U nder thy influence shall nations bow;

D iscord and Chaos mark thy envious brow.

I mperious monster, Nature’s deadliest foe,

C ould e’en Perfection fly thy threat’ing blow,

E ternal scourge of Happiness below?

A. B. T.


[page 26:]

[January 29, 1840, page 2, column 3] [[TOM R-05]]


The bloodhounds have occasioned no little gossip, especially among the old women, and if they themselves could only be made to understand their own importance in the way of affording material for newspaper paragraphs, they would begin to hold up their heads with any of our Chesnut street mongrels. It is now said that the United States Government has nothing to do with their use or importation, and that they are employed by the inhabitants of Florida.

Among other raw-head-and-bloody-bone stories about these beasts, the most highly-colored is of recent invention, and has been pretty extensively copied, as truth, by the newspaper press. We allude to the “thrilling narrative” which stated that there being occasion to bleed a sailor in one of the vessels which had on board a pack of the hounds, the animals became infuriated, and devoured all the passengers, as well as all the passenger’s pointers. The origin of this bugaboo tale is probably to be found in the following paragraph from the Charleston Courier:

“We noticed, yesterday, the arrival at St. Marks, of 33 Cuba bloodhounds. While the vessel was at sea, the cook having slaughtered a pig, the dogs, excited by the smell of the blood, broke from their confinement, drove the crew into the rigging, and kept possession of the deck for several hours before they could be pacified.”

NOTE: The above has certain earmarks of Poe’s style. He liked such phrases as “raw-head-and-bloody-bone,” and of course the word “bugaboo.” All of the popular newspapers of the day featured the story of the use of bloodhounds in the Florida War. In an article following on “The Rail-road War,” in the issue of March 18, there is a reference to the “bloodhound business.” The article in the Charleston Courier is in the issue of January 21, 1840.


[page 27:]

[January 29, 1840, page 2, column 4] [[TOM P-03]]


Our friend A. B. T., whose hieroglyphical puzzle we solved last week, has just sent us another. His note is as follows —

Mr. Alexander — I send you one more, and if you decypher it in your next, I must call you invincible.

¶ Þ ! ☜ || ⊥ ☞ Þ .  

? ☜ ¡ § ||     Þ ( § ¶ ⊥ ,   ] §   ☜ ¡ § ! ¶ ⊥ §   ☞ ⊥ ,

☜ (   ⊥ ( § ‡ ¶ ? || §   † § Þ § ☞ ⊥ ‡ — ?   ) ☜ — ;

¡ § ! —   ¿ ☜ ⊥ ☞ ¿ [   Þ ¶ ¿   Þ ! § ¶ ⊥ §   ☞ ⊥ ,

§ ¡ § ! —   ⊥ ! ☞ ‡ ? §   ] ☞ ? ?   † § || ⊥ ! ☜

A. B. T.

Mr. Alexander — I send you one more, and if you decypher it in your next, I must call you invincible.

These characters to be sure have an ugly look about them — but we assure A. B. T. that the ugliness of the letters has nothing to with the difficulty of solution. The translation is thus —


Love’s a cheat, we overrate it,

Oh the false, deceitful joy;

Very nothing can create it —

Every trifle will destroy.


[January 29, 1840, page 2, column 6] [[TOM R-06]]


We have had an opportunity of looking over the sheets of the next forthcoming number of this Journal (the number for February) and have no hesitation in saying that it is one of the best specimens, if not the very best specimen, of a monthly Magazine, which has yet been issued in this country. We are sure, too, that [page 28:] all our readers will agree with us in this opinion. It commences with a biographical notice of Mr. and Miss Vandenhoff — written by Mr. Burton — and, as a matter of course, written well. No account of these popular histrions has yet appeared in this country, we believe, certainly no satisfactory account; and the sketch now given will be read with interest by all the numerous admirers of the father and daughter. Two fine portraits on steel, by Forrest, accompany the article.

Mr. Burton has two or three other pieces in this number, if we are not greatly mistaken. We recognize his pen in the critical account of “Shakespeare’s Jest Book,” and, especially, in one of the bitterest doses, by way of Review, which the redoubted Captain Marryatt has yet had occasion to swallow — whether he will swallow it quietly is the question — he had better do so, however, than be funnelled.

Thaumaturgia, No. I. is the title of a paper to which Mr. B. has prefixed his name, and of whose paternity we are, therefore, pretty sure. It is the commencement of a Yankee’s adventures in the regions of Pluto. The down-Easter has obtained leave of absence from his Satanic Majesty, for the purpose of acting as cicerone to a party of illustrious ancients desirous of paying a visit to the United States. The next paper we presume, will let us into the doings of the party in Yankeeland. The whole idea is good, and so far is capitally carried out.

The Journal of Julius Rodman is continued, and a vivid description given of the persons and equipments of the travellers, who proceed up the Missouri as far as the mouth of the Platte. We prophecy that this will prove an intensely interesting narrative. Mr. Dow’s excellent “Log” is also continued, as well as the “Miami Valley” — we seldom see better Magazine papers than these. We notice, too, an original article, of great merit, from Captain Chamier, of England; likewise a most ludicrous quiz upon Fanny Kemble’s Journal, from the pen of Judge Haliburton the celebrated author of Sam Slick. Mr. Burton indeed makes no great boast of his list of contributors, but they form quite as strong a literary body as that in the service of any Magazine [page 29:] whatever. Mr. Poe has a very singular story. Mr. P. P. Cook [[Cooke]] of Manchester [[Winchester]], (one of Virginia’s finest minds) has a beautiful poem. But we cannot pretend to enumerate one third of the good things in the February number. We have indeed almost forgotten to speak of a burlesque poem about the Eglintown Tournament — a laughable affair, with a laughable cut from Crowquill. Neither have we said a word about the article on Sailing crafts (two capital wood designs) nor about the Review — one of which shows up Professor Longfellow as a plagiarist of the first water — but it is impossible to speak of everything. We say in brief that the Gentleman’s Magazine is a model in its way — original, independent, vigorous, racy. It is by far the best journal if its kind in America.

NOTE: Reviews of this kind, called “puffs,” were commonly inserted in friendly papers, and came from the pens of the editors of the magazines praised. (Poe makes much fun of the practice in his story, “The Literary Life of Thingum Bob.”) Poe had written such things for T. W. White to insert in Baltimore papers. It of course must be admitted that Burton was in a position to write the review as well as Poe, but this review is rather more in Poe’s manner. Poe carefully disavows the criticism of Marryat (which is a pretty libellous article, as Poe may have known) and he praises “Earl March and his Daughter,” the poem of P. P. Cooke, whose lovely “Florence Vane” he later recited in his lectures (see Broadway Journal for Mar. 15, 1845). Finally, “histrion” is a favorite word of Poe. Poe’s “singular story” is “Peter Pendulum,” now called “The Business Man,” and “The Journal of Julius Rodman” is of course one of Poe’s hoaxes. Burton’s “Thaumaturgia” articles are the sort of thing Poe probably had a genuine liking for — they are decidedly amusing even now. (This note by T. O. Mabbott.)


[January 29, 1840, page 2, columns 6-7] [[TOM — Tales 62]]


The line which demarcates the instinct of the brute creation from the boasted reason of man, is, beyond doubt, of the most shadowy and unsatisfactory character — a boundary line far more difficult to settle than even the North-Eastern or the Oregon. The [page 30:] question whether the lower animals do or do not reason, will possibly never be decided — certainly never in our present condition of knowledge. While the self-love and arrogance of man will persist in denying the reflective power to beasts, because the granting it seems to derogate from his own vaunted supremacy, he yet perpetually finds himself involved in the paradox of decrying instinct as an inferior faculty, while he is forced to admit its infinite superiority, in a thousand cases, over the very reason which he claims exclusively as his own. Instinct, so far from being an inferior reason, is perhaps the most exacted intellect of all. It will appear to the true philosopher as the divine mind itself acting immediately upon its creatures.

The habits of the lion-ant, of many kinds of spiders, and of the beaver, have in them a wonderful analogy, or rather similarity, to the usual operations of the reason of man — but the instinct of some other creatures has no such analogy — and is referable only to the spirit of the Deity itself, acting directly, and through no corporal organ, upon the volition of the animal. Of this lofty species of instinct the coral-worm affords a remarkable instance. This little creature, the architect of continents, is not only capable of building ramparts against the sea, with a precision of purpose, and scientific adaptation and arrangement, from which the most skilful engineer might imbibe his best knowledge — but is gifted with what humanity does not possess — with the absolute spirit of prophecy. It will foresee, for months in advance, the pure accidents which are to happen to its dwelling, and aided by myriads of its brethren, all acting as if with one mind (and indeed acting with only one — with the mind of the Creator) will work diligently to counteract influences which exist alone in the future. There is also an immensely wonderful consideration connected with the cell of the bee. Let a mathematician be required to solve the problem of the shape best calculated in such a cell as the bee wants, for the two requisites of strength and space — and he will find himself involved in the very highest and most abstruse questions of analytical research. Let him be required to tell the number of sides which will give to the cell the greatest space, with the greatest solidity, and to define the exact angle at which, with the same [page 31:] object in view, the roof must incline — and to answer the query, he must be a Newton or a Laplace. Yet since bees were, they have been continually solving the problem. The leading distinction between instinct and reason seems to be, that, while the one is infinitely the more exact, the more certain, and the more farseeing in its sphere of action — the sphere of action in the other is of the far wider extent. But we are preaching a homily, when we merely intended to tell a short story about a cat.

The writer of this article is the owner of one of the most remarkable black cats in the world — and this is saying much; for it will be remembered that black cats are all of them witches. The one in question has not a white hair about her, and is of a demure and sanctified demeanor. That portion of the kitchen which she most frequents is accessible only by a door, which closes with what is termed a thumb-latch; these latches are rude in construction, and some force and dexterity are always requisite to force them down. But puss is in the daily habit of opening the door, which she accomplishes in the following way. She first springs from the ground to the guard of the latch (which resembles the guard over a gun-trigger,) and through this she thrusts her left arm to hold on with. She now, with her right hand, presses the thumb-latch until it yields, and here several attempts are frequently requisite. Having forced it down, however, she seems to be aware that her task is but half accomplished, since, if the door is not pushed open before she lets go, the latch will again fall into its socket. She, therefore, screws her body round so as to bring her hind feet immediately beneath the latch, while she leaps with all her strength from the door — the impetus of the spring forcing it open, and her hind feet sustaining the latch until this impetus is fairly given.

We have witnessed this singular feat a hundred times at least, and never without being impressed with the truth of the remark with which we commenced this article — that the boundary between instinct and reason is of a very shadowy nature. The black cat, in doing what she did, must have made use of all the perceptive and reflective faculties which we are in the habit of supposing the prescriptive qualities of reason alone. [page 32:]

NOTE: This delightful essay is of course obviously from Poe’s pen. The works of the coral, bee, and lion-ant are all referred to in his “Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade,” and the lion-ant comes from Wyatt’s Synopsis of Natural History, Phila., 1839, p. 135, a book in the compilation of which Poe assisted Wyatt (as he reveals in his review of the book in Burton’s for July 1839). Striking also is the similarity of the sentence about “black cats are all of them witches” to one in Poe’s tale “The Black Cat,” 1843. That this wise cat was Poe’s cat, and the inspiration of his later story is plain. Whether this was the beloved Catterina, or Kate, brought by Mrs. Clemm to New York in 1844, is not quite certain; on the whole I think it was, for Poe did not need to have his cat die to consider the possibility of her death. The Poe family cat helped keep the dying Virginia warm by lying on her chest at Fordham, according to reminiscences of 1846. For reference to Catterina, see Woodberry, Life of Poe, vol. 2, pp. 67-68, for letter of Poe to Mrs. Clemm. (This note by T. O. Mabbott.) [[TOM — “Caterina died just before Mrs. Clemm left Fordham.”]]


[February 5, 1840, page 2, column 3] [[TOM P-04]]


“A Subscriber” in this city, sends us the ugliest hyeroglyphical puzzle we have yet received, and hopes that, if we cannot decypher it, we will have the candor to say so.

We shall have the candor to say no such thing, for the translation is below. He says, moreover, that, should we manage to make out this, he has one in store which he defies us to make out. — Send it on we reply.

A plague on those musty old lubbers

Who tell us to fast and to think,

And with patience fall in with life’s rubbers,

With nothing but water to drink;

A can of good stuff, had they twigg’d it,

’T’would have set them with pleasure agog,

And, spite of the rules

Of the schools,

The old fools

Would all of ’em swigg’d it,

And swore there was nothing like grog.


[page 33:]

[February 12, 1840, page 2, columns 3-4] [[TOM R-07]]


We copy the annexed paragraph from a late number of the Philadelphia Gazette.

A neighboring periodical, we hear, has been attempting to prove that Professor Longfellow’s sublime and beautiful “Midnight Mass for the Dying Year,” has been imitated from a poem by Tennyson. Preposterous! There is nothing more alike in the two pieces than black and white, with the exception of the personification, — and that was Longfellow’s, long before the Scotch writer thought of “doing” his poem. Who does not remember that striking simile in one of the Professor’s earlier lyrics,

— — — “where Autumn, like a faint old man, sits down,

By the way side, aweary?”

This same beautiful piece was copied in Edinburgh, from an English periodical where it was altered, to suit the scenery of England; and it is fifty times more probable that Tennyson thus got his idea, than that Mr. Longfellow should have done more in the “Mass,” than repeat a favorite one of his thought. On himself, one of the most strikingly original poets of this country, and the best translator of any nation known to our language, such a charge falls hurtless — and for the reputation of the maker, (acknowledged, we hear, among his friends) should be withdrawn. We ask the Weekly Messenger, who has repeated the charge of abstraction, to clip this caveat, and give it utterance.

And we reply — certainly; it will give us great pleasure to oblige our friend of the Gazette; although, in the present instance, we do not exactly comprehend the object of his request, or perceive what good purpose is to be effected by our compliance.

The “neighboring periodical,” alluded to in so parliamentary a style, is the “Gentleman’s Magazine,” and the accuser, whose “reputation” is so entirely a matter of hearsay with Mr. Clark, is a Mr. Poe, one of the editors of that very excellent and very popular journal. We assure the Gazette that this gentleman has really written one or two decent things, and it would not be amiss if the author of “Ollapod” would hereafter take him under his wing.

In referring to the criticism mentioned, we find that Mr. Clark has made a little mistake — at which we are not a little astonished. [page 34:] Mr. Poe does not say that Professor Longfellow’s poem is “imitated” from Tennyson. He calls it a bare-faced and barbarous plagiarism “belonging to that worst species of literary robbery, in which, while the words of the wronged author are avoided, his most intangible, and therefore his least defensible and least reclaimable property, is purloined.” In support of this accusation he has printed the poems in question side by side — a proceeding, which, we must acknowledge, has an air of perfect fairness about it. That the reviewer, indeed, has nothing beyond truth as his object, is rendered quite apparent by the fact that nowhere has the fine genius of Professor Longfellow been so fully and so enthusiastically set forth, as in the earlier portion of the very critique now made the subject of comment. As regards the plagiarism, the critic calls attention to the circumstances that, in both cases, there is the same leading idea, or thesis, — (that of the personification of the Old Year as a dying old man,) that, in both, the same unusual march of rhythm is observable — that, in both, at the ends of the stanzas there is the very remarkable peculiarity of the absence of legitimate rhyme — that, in both, the words “Old Year” are capitalized — and that both are characterized by the same wild, quaint, fantastic, and interjectional manner. We mention that the critic has done all this, because we understand, from the opening words of the paragraph quoted above, that Mr. Clarke, is only aware, as usual, through hearsay, of what is really written in the “Gentleman’s Magazine.”

Matters standing thus, the question is altogether one of opinion. Mr. Poe says the Professor stole the poem; so do we; and so does every body but Mr. Clarke. He says the Professor did not steal the poem. He says, moreover, that Mr Poe ought to “withdraw” the charge, lest, being persisted in, it may do injury to his own reputation; (Mr. P’s) about which he (Mr. C.) is solicitous. Whether Mr. Poe will oblige the editor of the Gazette, remains yet to be seen. In the meantime Mr. Clarke can still believe, if he pleases, that there is no more “similarity between the two poems than there is between black and white.” Anaxagoras maintained that snow is black — and perhaps now it is, after all. [page 35:]

NOTE: The Philadelphia Gazette was edited by Willis Gaylord Clark, and the paragraph in question appeared in the issue of February 4, 1840. The review of Longfellow’s “Voices of the Night” appeared in Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine for February 1840, pp. 100-103, and according to the above article was admittedly written by Poe. Clark’s statement that the Weekly Messenger had “repeated the charge of abstraction” referred to the notice of Burton in its issue of January 29. Willis Clark and his brother Lewis, editor of the Knickerbocker Magazine, were close friends of Longfellow and naturally Willis Clark was anxious to have Poe withdraw his unfair charge of plagiarism. Poe’s attitude toward Longfellow has been treated at length by his biographers, and this continued defense of his attack on Longfellow adds further material to the controversy. Longfellow’s “Midnight Mass for the Dying Year” had again been brought to Poe’s attention through having been printed in the Philadelphia Public Ledger of January 22, 1840. The reference to Anaxagoras in the above article had previously been used by Poe. In his story “Loss of Breath” (called “A Decided Loss” in its earlier version in the Philadelphia Saturday Courier of November 10, 1832), he said: “Anaxagoras, it will be remembered, maintained that snow is black, and this I have since found to be the case.”


[February 12, 1840, page 2, column 4] [[TOM R-08]]


Mathew Vipond, the celebrated swimmer, died recently at Liverpool, aged 48. In July, 1827, Mr. V. swam, on the river Mersey, from Rock Point to Runcorn, a distance of 22 miles, in 5 hours and a half — a feat probably unequalled and unapproached by any swimmer, when all the circumstances are taken into account, in ancient or modern times. — Phil. Ledger.

The comparative difficulty of swimming feats can only be estimated by the practical swimmer, and the writer of the paragraph above was evidently not a practical swimmer. From the place in which the feat here recorded took place and from the time in which it was performed, it is clear that the swim was with the current of the Mersey. It was thus no great thing to boast of. Even admitting it to have been swum in still water, it was, nevertheless, no very extraordinary performance. As for its being the greatest feat of the kind on record, we say at once — no; for a far [page 36:] more extraordinary one is within our own knowledge, and within that of almost every resident of Richmond, in Virginia. Mr. Poe, now of the Gentleman’s Magazine, swam from a point in James’ River, called Ludlam’s wharf, to a wharf at Warwick — a distance of seven miles and a half, in a hot June sun, and against a tide of three miles per hour. He was then but 15 years of age. The difficulty of swimming with a current is absolutely nothing; that of swimming in perfectly still water is, to a really able swimmer, but little greater than the difficulty of walking — merely requiring patience. But to swim against a strong current — hic labor, hoc opus est. There can be no interval for rest by floating, as in the two other cases, and this makes all the difference. There is no properly authenticated fact on record equal to that of Mr. Poe, and at the time of its performance, this fact was conceded by almost every journal in the United States.

NOTE: No one could have been so familiar with the details of Poe’s feat as Poe himself. This swim was alluded to by a writer in the Southern Literary Messenger for January 1835, vol. 1, p. 235, and this drew from Poe the story of the event which appears in that magazine for May, vol. I, p. 468. An eye-witness account by Thomas H. Ellis (who was ten years old in 1824) was written up by James A. Harrison for the New York Independent for September 6, Iwo (reprinted in Harrison’s Life of Poe, p. 25). See also John C. Stanard’s reminiscences printed in Hervey Allen’s Israfel, p. 106. Henry B. Hirst, in his biography of Poe in the Philadelphia Saturday Museum of March 4, 1843, describes at length the swimming feat, which he states happened “on a hot July day” and is “on record in the columns of the ‘Richmond Enquirer’ and other Richmond papers.” Yet a search of the Richmond Enquirer for the summer months from 1823 to 1827 fails to reveal a reference to it. No biographer gives the date of this swimming feat. The author of the above article says that the swim was made “in a hot June sun,” and “was conceded by almost every journal in the United States,” but no such reference has as yet been found. The mention of Poe’s age as fifteen would give 1824 as the year, if the age is given correctly. But Poe habitually misdated his birth, and his allusions to his age are unreliable. He went to the University of Virginia in February 1826, the year that would be consistent with his favorite birth date of 1811. But 1825 may have been the year meant. “Ludlam’s wharf” is probably a misprint for “Ludlow’s” (as it is called elsewhere), presumably on the north side of the James River in the section of Richmond known as “Rocketts.” The Latin quotation is from Virgil, Æneid, VI, 129.


[page 37:]

[February 12, 1840, page 2, column 5] [[TOM P-05]]


Some five or six weeks ago, in an article headed “Enigmatical Conundrumical,” we advanced the opinion that, with a proper method, any really good enigma, conundrum, charade, &c. &c. might be solved, and as apropos to this idea, we mentioned that it would be an easy matter to read any species of writing in which characters or marks, at random, were made use of in place of alphabetical characters — for example, instead of a, let a * always be used; in place of b, a f &c. &c. We offered, at the same time, by way of evidencing the sincerity of our belief upon the subject, to decypher any English letter sent to us thus written.

We certainly had no idea of the positive row which this challenge would create among all the Enigmatists and Charadists in the land. For the first week or so all went well. One or two very droll-looking hieroglyphical mysteries were sent us, and we gave their translation forthwith. In the meantime we were assailed in some quarters with the charge of gaggery, or more delicately speaking, of humbug. We were told to our teeth that the thing was impossible — that we wrote our own puzzles and then solved them. Still we kept on the even tenor of our way, and translated every thing that was offered for translation. But the row increased as the wonder grew, and we find ourselves in a pretty predicament indeed. Do people really think that we have nothing in the world to do but to read hieroglyphics? or that we are going to stop our ordinary business and set up for conjurers? Will any body tell us how to get out of this dilemma? If we don’t solve all the puzzles forwarded, their concocters will think it is because we cannot — when we can. If we do solve them we shall soon have to enlarge our sheet to ten times the size of the Brother Jonathan.

NOTE: The New York newspaper Brother Jonathan was a so-called “mammoth” sheet of four pages, 25 x 33 1/2 inches in size.


[page 38:]

[February 19, 1840, page 2, columns 2-3] [[TOM P-06]]


An article on the subject of our late puzzles, in which we make a full reply to all correspondents, is crowded out this week, on account of its length, but will appear in our next.

The letter of Philom, of Limerick, is just received, and, as we are about going to press, we can only make an extract from it. He says:

Come, be a philanthropist, and dispel the mystery that shrouds your magic wand, and don’t “stonish the natives” any longer. You suggested in a late number that the “method” which enters into “enigma guessing,” would afford a subject for a “most capital magazine article.” Agreed. And furthermore, we think you are just the man to write it, and the Messenger just the periodical to spread it all over the world. Our folks think the number that should contain such an article would be sought with even more avidity than your “double sheet, with splendid engravings;” and that is not talking small, we assure you. Forty subscribers, with the needful to match, you say, will buy the whole set of rules by which you are enabled to read pot-hooks, pitch-forks, and paradoxes. Now, we’ll tell you what we will do — if you will reel off the yarn in good shape, we will “pledge ourselves” to send you one quarter of it in a few months, and we’ll do all we can towards sending the whole. And won’t your Ohio correspondent do the same? — Noticing the good humor and urbanity with which you have treated all your correspondents who have appeared before you in the ugliest characters possible, and hoping that you are still in “laughing mood,” and will look upon us with the same scrutinizing indulgence, we have ventured to salute you in as comical a set of trappings as we could procure. We cannot, however, repress an ominous presentiment of never seeing this more. We greatly fear you will get suspended on this, and we be none the wiser. We shall see. Don’t let its great length exclude it. If we are any judge of the genius of putting words together, this has some merit over and above its fantastic dress.

Yours, truly. PHILOM.

[page 39:]

Philom seems bent upon puzzling us, and for this purpose has employed no less than seven distinct alphabets in the concoction of his cypher; which, we confess, is the most outrageous looking piece of composition we ever beheld. Seven alphabets! — and not a single letter in all like anything human or divine! One alphabet was what we stipulated for — not seven. But then, Philom says he will send us forty subscribers. We will, therefore, strain a point in his favor. His puzzle is nothing more than the well-known acrostic called “The Siege of Belgrade,” beginning thus:

An Austrian army, awfully arrayed,

Boldly, by battery, besieged Belgrade;

Cossack commanders cannonading come,

Dealing destruction’s desolating doom.

Every endeavor engineers essay,

For fame, for fortune, fighting furious fray;

Generals ‘gainst generals grapple — gracious God!

How honors Heaven heroic hardihood!

&c. &c. &c.

In our next, we will oblige Philom with our method of solution.

NOTE: It is unfortunate that Poe could not print the original of this cypher. He regarded it as one of the most interesting that he solved, and in Graham’s Magazine for July 1841, vol. 19, p. 34, referred to it as follows: “One gentleman, but moderately endowed with conscientiousness, inditing us a puzzle composed of pot-hooks and hangers to which the wildest typography of the office could afford nothing similar, went even so far as to jumble together no less than seven distinct alphabets, without intervals between the letters, or between the lines.” But we are not told whether these seven alphabets were used in the cyclic form, changing with each successive letter; or providing a separate alphabet for each first word in a line and another for each second word, etc.; or employing a separate alphabet for each successive line, to the seventh line, and then beginning over again. Probably one of the last two methods was used, as Poe never gave evidence that he was versed in the more intricate cyclic method. As soon as he realized the nature of this well known poem from the alliterative character of each line, the problem became easy. Poe promised to reveal his method of solution in the next issue of the paper, but instead he stated, “Upon second thought, we must decline giving our mode of solution for the present;” and again in the issue of April 22 he said: “We must decline, for the present, a full [page 40:] explanation of our method of solution.” Only in “The Gold-Bug” did he reveal his method of solving cipher-writing, and this concerned a cryptogram of the simplest sort.


[Feburary 26, 1840, page 2, column 3] [[TOM R-09x]]


Wm. Carver, or “old Billy Carver,” as he was familiarly termed, a companion and friend of Tom Paine, died in New York on Saturday last, in his 85th year. He was an Englishman by birth, and veterinary surgeon by profession. He was an eccentric man in his habits. Among his other freaks of fancy, which he some years since carried into effect, was to have his coffin made, for which the measure of his body was taken. This piece of furniture he kept for some time at his lodgings. It was subsequently taken to an undertaker’s shop in Pearl street, where, with the plate and other appurtenances, in readiness for use, it has since remained. At the latter period of his life he was supported by the society of Free Inquirers. — Phil. Ledger.

It seems to us that there is something wrong about the coffin story here, and that, in some manner, the freaks of Paine himself have become mixed up with those of “old Billy Carver.” During the better days of Jarvis, the noted portrait painter and sayer of droll things, we have more than once heard him narrate, of Paine, the anecdote now told of his friend. Paine resided at the time in Norfolk, Va., and Jarvis, although young, was in habits of close intimacy with him. He described the author of the “Age of Reason” as bereft of all reason in his later days, and as living on earth the life of the damned. Of the coffin Jarvis spoke frequently, and never in his usual merry way. Indeed an allusion to his residence with Paine was always sure to throw a damp upon the excessive spirits of the painter. In regard to Carver, it may be that he kept a coffin too, and did so by way of following his leader’s example.

NOTE: The article on Thomas Paine does not especially suggest Poe’s style, but is here printed as a possibility, and no more. The Public Ledger article appeared in its issue of February 19, 1840. There is no [page 41:] evidence that Poe knew Jarvis, but as Jarvis was a well known painter of his time and lived until 1840, Poe might well have known him. Poe, in common with most writers of his time, referred to Paine’s Age of Reason. In his “Marginalia” (Harrison, Works of Poe, vol. 16, p. 12), he spoke of Paine as “a very clever, very ignorant, and laughingly impudent fellow.” Of course either Alexander or Burton, both of whom wrote for the Messenger, could equally have known Jarvis, although the article appears in the place in the newspapers where Poe’s contributions usually were printed. If anything, the style suggests Alexander as much as Poe. According to the obituary notice in the Philadelphia Public Ledger of January 15, 1840, Jarvis died on January 12 previous, although the Dictionary of American Biography and other authorities give his death as January 14, 1839. Jarvis lived with Paine in 1806 and painted his portrait (see M. D. Conway’s Life of Thomas Paine, 1892, vol. 2, pp. 397, 480).


[February 26, 1840, page 2, column 3] [[TOM R-09]]


Goward, the writing and music master of New York, is beyond doubt the most knowing advertiser of his day. What he does in this way he does thoroughly, and there never is any danger of misunderstanding what he says. He gives the thing with a downright improviso air that is altogether irresistible. We believe that his late paragraph, in which he declares that nobody has yet dared to accept any one of his challenges, and pledges his word to teach fully one hundred and fifty new tunes in five minutes, have set him at the head of his profession (whatever it is) and fairly taken the town by storm.

But vixere fortes ante Agamemnona, and there are other geniuses besides Goward. What a fine idea that is of somebody who advertises that he is in immediate want, these dull times, of precisely four guagers at fifty cents per cask, exactly fifty surveyors at twelve and twenty dollars, and just twenty engineers at fifty round dollars, per day! Lest the applicants should be in want of money, the advertiser will give them as much as they want, and buy all their instruments into the bargain.

The Picayune says that it met with the following in one of its New England exchange papers: “Wanted a man to take charge of [page 42:] a milk cart, and a horse entertaining abolition principles” — but we consider this a mere slander. Now here is a genuine thing, and really appears in a down east daily —

Any gal what’s got a cow, a good feather bed with comfortable fixins, five hundred dollars in the hard pewter, one that’s had the measels and understands tendin’ children can find a customer for life, by writin’ a small billy dux, addressed Q. Z., and stickin’ it in a crack of Uncle Ebenezer’s barn, joinin’ the hog-pen.

NOTE: This article is barely reminiscent of Poe’s style, although one or two phrases may well have been used by him. The quotation from Horace, Odes, book IV, ode 9, line 25, is suggestive; and apparently Poe, who was familiar with Horace, was the only writer in the Messenger at the time who quoted Latin phrases. Furthermore, there are many instances of Poe’s interest in advertisements.

Isaac R. Goward was a music teacher in New York in the 1830’s and is generally entered in the Directories merely as “teacher,” but in the Directory for 1839 he is entered as “Isaac R. Goward, of Amherst College, professor and teacher of music, dancing, writing, &c.” He was a member of the Class of 1830 at Amherst, but did not graduate. His advertisements ran regularly in the New York Evening Signal. He calls himself “Rev. Isaac Goward, A.M.,” and says that he was educated for the ministry but “on account of his extraordinary faculty for teaching, he was advised by numerous Christian friends to leave the pulpit and benefit the world by teaching arts, sciences and languages.” He also mentions his three daughters, Euterpe Seraphine, Flora Terpsichore, and Calliope Rosina, “aged 8, 6 and 4.” In the Evening Signal of January 18, 1840, he printed the following advertisement: “Challenge! I challenge any man living to write a Business Hand with me, teach the same, or to teach Music, or Dancing, with me, for $1000, less, or nothing. Put a man down fairly, not by slander, or puffing unworthy ones for money! I have certificates of teaching so tunes in 5 minutes!!! Lessons cheap, at all hours — satisfaction or no charge.



[February 26, 1840, page 2, column 4] [[TOM P-07]]


Since our outside form went to press we have received several others, which we here insert, in order to close the account on this head. The subjoined is to be read as the continuation of the article on the fourth page. [page 43:]

We had no trouble in reading the cypher sent us by H. C. A., of West Stockbridge, Mass., but must decline publishing it in full. H. C. A. will know, however, that we have decyphered it when we say that it is headed “Geographical Enigma;” begins “I am composed of fourteen letters;” and has for answer the word “Constantinople.”

A single glance enabled us to see through the cypher of “Mechanicus,” (of Philadelphia we believe.) His puzzle is the Lords Prayer.

We willingly comply with the request of C. B. of Warrenton, Va., and insert his cypher, with the translation. C. B. says — “if you favor me with a solution I shall be able to agree with A. B. T. as to your invincibility.”

cryptogram with typographical characters

[page 44:]

Of this the translation is as follows:


How few, favoured by every element,

With swelling sails make good the promised port,

With all their wishes freighted! yet ev’n these

Freighted with all their wishes soon complain.

Free from misfortune, not from nature free,

They still are men; and when is men secure?

As fatal time as storm. The rush of years

Beats down their strength; their numberless escapes

In ruin end: and now their proud success

But plants new terrours on the victor’s brow.

What pain to quit the world just made their own!

Their nests so dearly downed, and built so high!

Too low they build who build beneath the stars.

We have just received a cypher from J. Lucas, of Mount Holly, N. Jersey, which has been concocted with much ingenuity. We read it however, with perfect ease. It runs thus:

“That which directs the monuments of man; one of the strongest passions; and one eighth of the birth place of Archimedes, compose the name of a worthy subscriber to the Messenger.”

We must confess that our friend’s enigma is not the very best in the world — for he evidently means its answer to be Luc-a-s. Luck as directing the monuments, &c. — a as the initial of anger — and .3 as the eighth of Syracuse, the birth place of Archimedes.

D. D’s cypher, of Irvinton, Ala., has this minute come to hand. He says we will “do to travel” if we read it — but it is a mere trifle — the letters being formed upon a square with diagonal crosses. [page 45:]

Life, like lovers, soon decays;

Our ardor soon is oer;

Very soon, alas, ’t betrays

E’en hearts that blood not poore,

We give the verses verbatim and are not responsible for their merit.

“Munger’s” cypher is precisely like D. D’s; but, being in pencil, is too much defaced to be read.

Having thus gone through with the whole list of our enigmatical friends, it will be seen that we have done far more than merely redeem the pledge made at starting. We stated certain conditions, and these have seldom been observed. — In last weeks paper we decyphered a puzzle where the writer had actually used seven distinct alphabets in place of the one for which we stipulated. Just above, too, C. B. has run all his characters together without interval; but we made it a condition that the arbitrary letters should be used as the ordinary alphabet. We have been foiled in no instance.

It would have been better, perhaps, if our correspondents had always made use of their real names in sending their favor, and not of initials. Should we receive any thing upon this subject, hereafter, we cannot reply to it unless we have the writer’s true name. It will be observed that when a cypher is sent us with the writers initials only, no one can be sure, except the person himself and his immediate friends, that the puzzle is not a fiction of our own.

Upon second thought, we must decline giving our mode of solution for the present.


[February 26, 1840, page 4, columns 3-5] [[TOM P-??]]


A press of business, last week, prevented us from attending to the favors of our enigmatical friends; and we then dismissed the [page 46:] whole subject in brief. The unexpected interest, however, which is still manifested in all directions about the matter, induces us to speak of it again, with a view of convincing the sceptical that there is really no “humbug” in the case. And first we reply to “Adolescentulus,” who writes from Burkeville, Prince Edward County, Va. The translation of his cynper runs thus:

I am a word of nine letters. My first, fifth, and fourth, is the chief support of the human frame. My first, seventh, and fifth, has often been the cause of bloodshed. My first, seventh, sixth, and fifth, is what we all wish to do in prosperity. My first, ninth, seventh, third, and fourth, denote what we all have been doing whilst on the bed of sickness. My first, second, sixth, and fifth, is that which is often bestowed on those who are unworthy of it. My eighth, second, third, and fifth, is a term applied to the sound of a musical instrument. My first, fifth, third, seventh, eighth, and ninth, is what the distressed often apply for in vain. My whole is what the wealthiest wish to obtain.

The answer is Longevity.

As “Adolescentulus” is no doubt really what his signature implies, we will take the liberty of saying to him that his cypher is very inartificially constructed, and therefore very easily un-riddled. He has put the word “Enigma” at the head, and we at once knew it to be such, when we noticed the frequent recurrence of the word which stands for “My.” “Adolescentulus,” whom by certain indications we know to be a youth of some talent, would have been himself able to solve any such cypher, had we sent it to him. If he will consider well what we shall say, in a subsequent part of this article, he will soon find himself in condition to solve any puzzle of the kind now in question.

J. H., of Philadelphia, who sent us “a poser” two weeks since, with the assurance that if we managed to read that (which we did) he would send us one hereafter which he would defy us to make out, has now forwarded us the following:


7 990¶21 70 62 8768 3: 6.2 ¶29¶

27¶56 5612265 3: 831525 2346¶ 2170 63 ¶2898? [page 47:]

9 912 75 6.2 317¶2 3: 17825? — 7675:62¶

9.212 3323 90¶ 871832569082? — 966 39552¶ 9998!

This is by far the most difficult cypher which we have received. Some of the words are crowded together, and the writer has taken other liberties which do not come within the conditions originally laid down. For example, in some cases the figure 3 stands for I, in others for 0; in some cases the figure 6 stands for L, in others for T; while 2 stands for E and M indifferently, and 9 for both W and A. Some words, moreover, are mis-spelt. How much the difficulty of solution is increased in this way, may easily be conceived. The translation, however, is as follows:


I wander in the city of the dead

Midst streets of houses mouldering to decay.

Where is the pride of riches? it is fled.

Where pomp and circumstance? all passed away.

“A subscriber,” who, beyond doubt, takes us for a bottle conjurer, addresses us this letter:

Mr. Editor, —

Your success in decyphering has almost disheartened me from attempting anything of my own invention; for I am perfectly satisfied, from what I have seen of your ingenuity, that you can decypher any piece of writing where hieroglyphics are used instead of letters; and allow me to say you would be a valuable requisition to an army, in reading the enemy’s despatches. But there is a system occurs to my mind which was used with great success by Napoleon during the war in Spain, when every other system of secret writing was decyphered by the English. This one plan alone baffled all their ingenuity. It will be found on the other page. If you can make it out, and give the sense as the writer intended it to be understood, I will give up at once.


[page 47:]

Then our friend might as well give up and be done with it. But we wish it distinctly understood that such puzzles as this are not what we promised to decypher. For what we did promise to do, we refer our friends to a late Messenger. Here follows A Subscriber’s cypher:

That capital punishment I have got, the toothache; such a punishment ought not to be continued. That I will do my utmost to have it abolished is evident from my conduct from the first. Judge democracy from the fact that it is formidable to tyrants only. War is conducted in a manner revolting to humanity. Neither age nor sex is spared; and one thousand thousand murdered does not lessen the thirst for blood. Oh Heavens! oh my God — the amount of crime in our land! And moreover, as water will ultimately find a level, even so does familiarity with public business make us neglectful of private interest. Executions begets a strain of thought in the good which is painful. Contempt in the rich towards the poor is a mockery of God. Base and vile, it also exposes the littleness of your souls. A spear wounds the feelings of any whom it comes in contact with, regardless of the pure and virtuous, however frail.

But the advocates of this horrid, this wretched, this barbarous custom, have the audacity to tell us it is the only genuine production, the only real means by which we can effect a cure, and have a tendency to deter the wicked from trespassing on my corn crib, and to stop the perpetration of crime in the custom house. Now I would ask such clerks what is the amount of salary, the men why so many days ago were caught in the very act of committing suicides in our prisons, and when interrogated as to the cause, and why so much precaution to guard our good ship Constitution, and to prevent self-murder on the quarter deck, or be bound in chains in our cells of solitary confinement, without the most distant hope of relief — hurrah — hurrah — hurrah for Liberty! to commence with five, six, seven, or even eight as the case may be all the year round? It can be answered on no other principle than electricity. No other ground than red clay with sandy bottom is fit for apothegms — this, that the brain of the mammoth is kept in a continual [page 48:] state of turmoil — the sufferer is distracted by his own foibles, his own whims and nonsense, his intolerable loquacity — thus needlessly disturbing himself until out of existence, and seeks relief in the arms of Morpheus, or slumbers in death, to wake no more until time and death shall be no more — thus proving conclusively that this is a probationary state — that death is preferred by the brave and free to a life in slavery, to a life of solitary wandering in a trackless desert, is 10,000 confinement by those who are used to the chambers of luxury, and are best able to judge of their own imaginary wants.

The words in italics were italicised by ourselves, and did not so appear in the original. By reading these words alone, the true meaning of this queer piece of composition is discovered. How we were enabled to pick out the precise words which are to be read, is a question we will not answer just now. It is sufficient that our correspondent will acknowledge that his cypher is read.

T. R. H. or J. R. H. (we cannot make out the first letter precisely) of Philadelphia, will pardon us for not undertaking the solution of his puzzle as it stands; for he has evidently misunderstood our whole design. He says that he has made a bet upon our infallibity; and that he may safely do, provided always that he sticks to the matter in hand. We said, distinctly, that we would read any English writing, where arbitrary marks are used in place of the common alphabetical characters — for example, an alphabet is first made in which a * represents a, a fi b, a t c, &c &c — this alphabet is then employed as the ordinary one would be. The same character must always stand for the same letter. Now if J. R. H. will take the trouble to count the various distinct characters employed by him, he will find there are no less than fifty-one. But there are only twenty-six letters in the English alphabet. He can get his MS. again by applying at our office. In the meantime let him concoct another puzzle, in accordance with our conditions, and bet as much as he pleases upon our solving it. The present bet is a drawn one of course, as there was a misunderstanding.

The following letter is from Lewistown, Mifflin County, Pa.

[page 49:]

Dear sir, —

It appears from several back numbers of the Messenger that the Philadelphia puzzle-makers are not able to puzzle you. I therefore send you one which if you translate, I will agree to send you ten subscribers and the cash. It is a genuine article and no deception about it. If you cannot come it, please insert it for the amusement of the Philadelphians, and try them on a country poser.

Yours, &c.  

The Philadelphians are not such fools as Mr. Kulp supposes them. His puzzle, however, is this:

Ge Jeasgdxv,

Zij gl mw, laam, xzy zmlwhfzek eilvdxw kwke tx Ibr atgh Ibmx aanu bai Vsmukkss pwn vlwk agh gnumk wdlnzweg jnbxvv oaeg enwb zwmgy mo mlw wnbx mw al pnfdcfpkh wzkex hssf xkiyahul. Mk num yexdm wbxy sbc hv wyx Phwkgnamcuk?

We had scarcely glanced at this affair when we pronounced it an imposition, notwithstanding Mr. K’s assertion to the contrary. In the first place, had it been “a genuine article,” it would not have been written in as free and running a hand as it is — a hesitation would have been apparent about the characters. In the second place, there is no word in the English language which ends as Mr. K’s word “Vsmukkss” does — that is to say with double-duplicate letters. But the same method which serves us in the decyphering a true cypher, will enable us to demonstrate the falsity of any fictitious one. It may afford our friends some amusement to follow us in the process of a demonstration in the present case.

The reader will observe that we have italicised three words in the cypher, and upon these three depends all we have to say. We begin with “mw,” a word of two letters. Now all English words of but two letters consist of a vowel and a consonant. Let us suppose the “m” to be the vowel “a,” and let us prefix this to every consonant, and see how many words can thus be made. For example [page 51:] — ab, ac, ad, af, ag, &c — we find no English word until we come to “ah” — and all that can be made by placing “a” first, are “ah,” “am,” “an,” “at,” and “ay.” Now, placing “e” first, let us prefix it to every consonant in the same way — then place all the other vowels first, respectively; then place all the consonants first, respectively, adding the vowels. Having gone through the alphabet thus, we readily discover every word in the language, of two letters. There, in fact, are but thirty — ah, am, an, at, ay, if, in, it, of, on, or, up, us, be, by, do, go, ha, he, ho, la, lo, ma, me, my, no, pa, so, to, and wo. Now “mw” in the puzzle, must represent one of these thirty words. The word “am” we may as well strike out, for if “mw” were “am,” it would be preceded or immediately followed by the pronoun I — but there is no single letter near it.

We now refer to the word “mlw.” If “mw” is “ah,” then “mlw” must be some word formed by the insertion of a letter between a and h. By running down the alphabet we immediately see that “ash” is the only word which can be thus formed. We now proceed to “an.” If “mw” is “an,” then “mlw” must be some word formed by the insertion of a letter between a and n. Running down the alphabet as before, we find that no word can be so formed — we therefore strike out an from the list of twenty-nine; for mw cannot be an. Going through the whole in his way, we see that mw must be either

ah, from which we formed ash,
at, from which may be formed aft, aft, ant, apt, & art,
ay, any,
of, oaf,
on, own,
or, oar,
by, bay, bey, boy, and buy,
he, hoe,
my, may,
to, tho’, and two.

We have thus narrowed the question in regard to mw very much — from thirty to ten words; one of which it must be. At the [page 52:] same time it is equally certain that mlw must be one of the worts in the second column. Now we refer to the third italicized word laam.

If mlw be ash, then laam will be a word of this form, s . . a, in which the dots represent two unknown letters of the same kind. If mlw be aft, the laam will be a word of this form, f . . a. If mlw be aft, then laam will be 1 . . a, &c. &c. Going through the whole second column thus we get this schedule.

s  .   .  a   r  .   .  a   o  .   .  b
f  .   .  a   a  .   .  o   u  .   .  b
l  .   .  a   w  .   .  o   o  .   .  h
n  .   .  a   a  .   .  o   a  .   .  m
p  .   .  o   a  .   .  b   h  .   .  t
n  .   .  a   e  .   .  b   w  .   .  t

That is to say, we prove that laam must be some word which can be formed by placing double letters where the dots are in some one of the words in the schedule. The slightest inspection will satisfy the reader that h . . t must be the one, if any; for here alone can the category be fulfilled. By inserting o o, we get the word hoot. Laam is then hoot or nothing. But the hypothesis of the word hoot is founded upon that of the word tho’ in the second column of the first schedule; and tho’ upon to, in the first column. We now arrive at a definite conclusion. Either Mr. Kulp’s puzzle is not genuine, or mw stands for to, mlw for tho’, and laam for hoot. But it is evident that this latter cannot be for in that case both w and a represent the letter o. What follows? — why that Mr. Kulp’s puzzle is no puzzle at all. This demonstration is as absolutely conclusive as any mathematical one could be. The process of reasoning here employed is that employed also in the solution of the cyphers.


[March 4, 1840, page 2, column 2] [[TOM R-10]]


These are very much in fashion just at present in Philadelphia, and Satan is in great danger of being drummed out of town. The [page 53:] Methodist congregations have been making especial war upon his Majesty, who must be quite out of heart by this time, as well as out of temper. He has been signally defeated in the city, in Southwark, and particularly in Spring Garden and Kensington, where conversions have become a mere matter of course — as plenty as “reasons or blackberries.” The chief subject of wonder, however, is that the principal recruits have been enlisted from the ranks of a party which is the last in the world a body would suspect of giving up its evil ways — we mean the jolly corporation of victuallers. These people we always thought wordly-minded individuals, hankerers after creature comforts, men of the flesh, rather than of the spirit.

NOTE: This article should be credited to Poe because of a succeeding article on “Revivals” in the issue of April 15, which is manifestly by Poe, and in which he refers to his earlier writing on the matter. Strange to say, local revivals did not seem to interest the other Philadelphia newspapers, excepting the Christian Observer, which is filled with the subject in February and March 1840. Also the Boston Recorder, which chronicled revivals throughout the country, shows the interest which Philadelphia displayed during this year. Poe seemed to like the phrase “If reasons were as plentiful as blackberries,” as found in Shakespeare’s “Henry IV,” and had already used it in “The Man who was Used Up,” where he wrote “But although men so absolutely fine-looking are neither as plenty as reasons or blackberries” (Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, August 1839, vol. 5, p. 66).


[March 4, 1840, page 2, column 3] [[TOM P-08]]


We have received the following note from our enigmatical friend J. H.

Mr. Editor, you have certainly fulfilled your promise to the very letter, and I hereby acknowledge that you did decypher my puzzle correctly in your last weekly paper. Pointing out the precise words by which I meant to convey my meaning. And moreover I am perfectly convinced from what I have seen, that you can [page 54:] decypher any piece of writing in which arbitrary signs are used instead of the letters of the alphabet.

J. H.

Our fair correspondent at the Metropolis, will find the solution of her puzzle in the following lines:


Feb. 8th, 1840.    }

Dear Sir — Having heard of your skill in interpreting letters written in arbitrary signs, we send you this, which, if translated by you, and published in the Messenger, will give much pleasure to


T. S., of Boquet, N. Y. will find the solution of his cypher on the [fo]urth page.

We will reply to R.H. and our friend of Bedford, Lower Canada, in our next.


[March 4, 1840, page 4, column 1] [[TOM P-??]]

To T. S. of Boquet, Essex, N. Y. — Your cypher is thus read:


When day declines, and sable night

Shall veil this hemisphere from sight,

I would, with no dull cares oppressed,

Spend each dark hour in quiet rest.

A rake and fool may drink and rove —

Night is the time which they improve —

With such to walk I will refuse;

You are the company I choose.


[page 55:]

[March 11, 1840, page 2 column 3] [[TOM P-??]]


Our friend J. R. H., of Philadelphia, will excuse us for saying that he has not, even yet, complied with our conditions, which provided that the arbitrary characters were to be used as the alphabetical ones are. In the present instance he has made no divisions between his words — running them all together. But lest he should think we cannot decypher what he sends, and especially in order that he may win his bet upon our infallibility, we now give the translation without more ado. It runs thus:

If music be the food of love, play on;

Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,

The appetite may sicken and so die.

That strain again! — it had a dying fall.

O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet south

That breathes upon a bank of violets

Stealing and giving odor — enough! no more!

’Tis not so sweet now as it was before.

O spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou,

That, notwithstanding thy capacity

Receiveth as the sea, nought enters thee

Of what validity and pitch soever

But falls into abatement and low price

Even in a minute: so full of shapes is fancy

That it alone is high fantastical.

A correspondent who signs his initials L. R. G., of Philadelphia, but whom we strongly suspect, by his MS., to be a Mr. H., of our acquaintance, writes us as follows:

“These puzzles you may see by analysis to be genuine. If you can’t resolve them, you will have to give up.” We must say to L.R.G. that we stipulated for English, and that the annexed affair (which are the translations of his cypher) can scarcely come under that denomination. We give the spelling as our correspondent gives it — evidently with the design of bothering us. [page 56:]



My father’s gone away,

A wish he would come home.

A do not like to have Mm stay

Where a can’t see him every day.

Ma yhen yill father come home.

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.


To our correspondent in Bedford, Lower Canada. Your cypher is thus read:

“Mrs. Hopkins told me that she heard Green’s wife say that John Glacrie’s wife told her that Fanny Hopkins heard the Widow Washam say that Captain Weed’s wife thought Colonel Hodgkin’s sister Nel lied — that old Miss Quins reckoned that Mrs. Samuel Dunham had told Spalding’s wife that she heard John Min’s daughter say that her mother told her that old Miss Finns heard grandmother Cool declare that it was an undoubted fact.”

It would be a satisfaction to us if our enigmatical friends whose cyphers we have fairly decyphered would make acknowledgment to that effect.

NOTE: The fact that contributors sent in poems in cypher that were well known made Poe’s task of decyphering them much simpler. As soon as in the first poem he recognized a line or two from the familiar opening speech in “Twelfth Night,” the rest was easy.


[March 18, 1840, page 2, column 3] [[TOM R-11]]


During the last ten days, or thereabouts, the sober inhabitants of the District of Kensington have been all alive with a delightful little war of their own — a nice rough-and-tumble affair — none [page 57:] of your bloodhound business, or Bugaboo and Kickapoo campaigns. The Philadelphia and Trenton Rail-road Company had received permission, it seems, from one of our judicial tribunals, to lay their rails in Front street, but could not obtain the consent of the property holders of the region. For some time past the work has been going on, however, with much grumbling and many threats on the part of the Front-streeters, but with no overt act of resistance. On Monday morning, about ten o’clock, matters took the first serious turn. Quite a mob — men, women, and children — surrounded the laborers at the rails; replacing the paving-stones which had been displaced, and otherwise interrupting the work. The sheriff was sent for, arrived about 12, with his possee, and arrested Henry Rowan, John Craydon, and Francis Farley. These were taken before Mayor Conrad, and held to bail, the former in $500, the two latter in $30o each, to answer the charges alleged against them before the Court of General Sessions. The arrest of these persons intimidated the crowd for a time, but in the afternoon the riot again commenced. About 4 o’clock Hugh Lemon was arrested, taken before the Mayor, and bound over in the sum of $300. Lemon is a property-holder to some extent upon Front street.

On Tuesday and Wednesday the excitement still continued, and a great number of the gentle engaged in the melee. On Thursday the disorders increased. Mr. Naglee was violently assaulted with paving stones discharged from the fair hands of the damsels of Kensington, who also led away in triumph a wagon containing iron rails for the road, the laborers being fairly driven off the ground. Many arrests were made, but with no good effect. In the afternoon the Sheriff and his whole posse were routed, and the rioters, having beaten them off, proceeded to tear up that portion of the road which was the nearest to completion; disengaging not only the rails but the wooden frames, and filling up the excavations with dirt and stones. In the meantime placards were posted up calling upon the people to “put down the rail-road nuisance,” and addressed especially to the firemen, draymen and carters — who were invited to attend a meeting on Thursday evening, in the [page 58:] Commissioners Hall, Kensington. The meeting was accordingly held, and served, as a matter of course, to inflame the wrath of the mob, who adjourned to the scene of action, and set fire to the timber intended for the road. The Judges of the Court of Quarter Sessions now issued a general warrant, authorizing the Sheriff to command the service of every able-bodied citizen to aid in quelling the disturbances. This officer issued notices accordingly, and gave directions to the whole police force, as well as to all the watchmen, to meet at his office on Friday. But before the time appointed, the Rail-road Company had agreed to discontinue the laying of the rails until the decision of the Supreme Court could be obtained. The property-holders had denied the company’s right to construct the road in Front street, and had also avowed their intention of referring the question to the Supreme Court. An announcement of the Company’s submission was duly made by the Sheriff to the mob, who first raised an uproarious shout of triumph, and then dispersed in high glee. Thus ended the great rail-road war.

NOTE: Although not much in Poe’s usual style, the reference to the “Bugaboo and Kickapoo Campaigns” seems to show that this article is from his hand. It was in “The Man who was Used Up,” written by him for Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine for August 1839, that he commemorated his main character as the hero of the Bugaboo and Kickapoo campaign. The Kickapoos had been recently in the public eye in the Florida Indian wars, and Poe apparently invented the word “Bugaboo” as an alliterative name for an allied tribe. If a concordance of Poe’s prose could be compiled, it would reveal his use of this word at other times — for instance, in “The Premature Burial” in 1844. The reference to the “bloodhound business” alluded to the use of bloodhounds in hunting the Indians in Florida, a subject which occasioned much controversy in the newspapers of the day. Poe had previously referred to the topic, under the heading of “The Bloodhound Story,” in the Messenger of January 29.


[March 18, 1840, page 2, column 4] [[TOM R-11]]


This is the title of a new weekly and tri-weekly paper, published at Petersburg, Va., by H. Haines, Esq. late editor of the Petersburgh [page 59:] “Constellation.” Mr. Haines is a gentleman of education and of unusually fine talents. He is, moreover, a sternly independent man; and this is saying a great deal in these days of universal subserviency and tergiversation. The “Star” will be a “bright particular” one, indeed, if it emit rays one half so brilliant as those from the “Constellation” of old days. No mere constellation that — but a perfect galaxy of good things. In faith, we remember it well. Neither Mr. Haines, nor any papers of Mr. Haines, are matters to be readily forgotten.

The “Virginia Star” is a pretty-looking sheet, well printed, on excellent paper — its matter (whether editorial or contributed) equal to that of any printed in America. It proceeds upon the cash system — quite a novel idea in Virginia. We cordially wish it a life of a thousand years.

NOTE: This puff of the Virginia Star was unquestionably by Poe. Hiram Haines, its editor, was a friend of Poe and earlier had entertained him at Petersburg (see Mary E. Phillips, Edgar Allan Poe, vol. 1, p. 532). In Americana for January 1942 John W. Ostrom prints two letters from Poe to Haines, and gives an excellent sketch of all that can be found about the Virginia editor. One of the Poe letters was dated April 24, 1840, in reply to one from Haines of March 24, and mentions the receipt of the Star. Only two issues of the Virginia Star can be located today, although a file of over a year, formerly in a book-dealer’s hands in Washington, has now disappeared. Haines died early in 1841 and his paper was discontinued. The Philadelphia Public Ledger of March 2, 1840, has an amusing editorial on the Virginia Star, arising from the fact that they had had to pay over a cents collect postage for the prospectus. Poe’s quotation on this “bright particular” Star is from “All’s Well that Ends Well,” Act 1, scene 1.


[March 18, 1840, page 2, column 4] [[TOM R-12]]

We perceive by the advertisement in another column, that our friends Hirst and Dreer, have issued a very excellent work on the Kitchen Nursery, Fruit and Flower Garden, and other branches of the Farm department, called the YOUNG GARDINER’S ASSISTANT, by Thomas Bridgeman, of New York. It is for sale at their Seed store, No. 97 Chesnut street. Among other important matters it contains the celebrated discovery on “Terra-Culture,” [page 60:] as described in Senate Document No. 23, of the 3d Session of the 25th Congress, and therein estimated at hundreds of millions of day’s labor, and “worth more to the community than all the discoveries of the present age combined — the application of steam not excepted.” For the purchase of which secret an application has been made to the 26th Congress, by the discoverer, for a sum equal to five cents from each individual of the United States, or about a million dollars of our resources.

NOTE: Thomas Bridgeman’s Young Gardener’s Assistant was in its 7th edition by 1840. The firm of Hirst and Dreer, seedsmen, consisted of Henry B. Hirst and Henry A. Dreer. Hirst was long Poe’s friend, and in 1843 wrote the laudatory biography for the Phildelphia Saturday Museum. It was but natural that Poe should mention Hirst’s publication in the Messenger and especially so since the firm constantly advertised in that paper.


[March 25, 1840, page 2, column 6] [[TOM P-10]]


Greenville, Butler county, Ala.


Dear Sir: — As there is great interest taken in your very valuable paper in this part of the country, and especially with regard to the puzzling part of it, I shall be obliged if you will decypher and publish the following. I do not presume it to be more difficult to solve than many others, but sufficiently so, if solved, to satisfy myself and others at this section of the country, of your ability to explain any thing of the kind.

Very respectfully yours,  

It will give us great pleasure to oblige Mr. Henry. His cypher reads thus:

D67ε;002)7.U   )177¿3;007☞*D071☜.*¿0k2]   2☞242,   ,8   2☞.*D-¿7   6*¿wl7   w2¿wU.   lDk4;078   Ul.4 D67   ☜Dk .U4.☞;07·


[page 61:]

The translation is thus:

The village of Greenville, Butler county, Alabama, is about one hundred and forty miles from the city of Mobile.


To INCOG, of Ithaca, N. Y. Your first cypher is thus translated :

Selected for Alexander’s Messenger.

If that high word which lies beyond

Our own surviving love endures —

If there the cherished hearts be fond

The eye the same except in tears —

How welcome those untrodden spheres!

How sweet this very hour to die!

To soar from earth and find all fears

Lost in thy light, Eternity!

In regard to the second we reply at once — it is not genuine. There is no word in the English language which ends as your word hbjggg terminates — with three similar letters. This point is perfectly conclusive. Incog will, of course, not understand us to say that he intentionally wished to deceive us. We mean only to say that this puzzle, which may be genuine enough in its way, (and which, indeed, we know very well to be so) is not of the kind for which we stipulated, but belongs to Cryptography — as did Mr. K’s, of whom he makes mention. Incog will see at once that we are obliged to keep within some limits. Were we to engage in the solution of every kind of puzzle sent us, we should have our hands full. We said that we could and would solve every cypher, of a stipulated character, which we should receive, and we have kept our pledge more than ten times over. So much for ourselves. In regard to the Cryptography, Incog is altogether mistaken — it is subject, like almost every thing else, to the universal rules of analysis. We can decypher any thing of the kind, or of any other kind. What is said about a key being necessary for the solution is based upon a misconception. It does not follow that, because cyphers are put together by laborious or intricate processes (as many have been which we have received and solved) that we must [page 62:] go through the same intricate process in unriddling them. We assert roundly, and in general terms, that human ingenuity cannot concoct a proper cypher which we cannot resolve.


Our friends would very much oblige us by acknowledging the solutions we have given, as requested in our last. Not one can say that he has forwarded us a cypher, which we have not fully and accurately translated.

Mr. J. Lucas, of Mount Holly, requests us to state that the answer to an Enigma sent in a cyphy [[cypher]] by him (and of which we gave the translation some weeks since) was not his own name, although that might answer, but was intended for the name of another subscriber, Mr. Jos. P. Wills.

We have not yet found time to look at Hamilton Brown’s cypher, but will attend to it hereafter.


†††   ||††?||   ,—   ☜,||††]s||   (?)†   ☜,||††]s||   .   ,†(*—   ☜,||††]s||   ¶],(   ☜,||††]s||   ¶]s(||-⊥⊥,—   —||,   ☜☜   ?||   ☜†?—||   ?   )?(   ?(*   †††   ||††?||   ††?—?☜☜   ||†††—†   —   (]   )]   †


March 16th, 1840. }


Sir: — Not doubting your capability to solve the above (if we may judge from the many curious specimens of the kind, which have appeared in your valuable paper) rather as a proof of your infallibility to some doubting minds, you would much oblige a number of your subscribers by inserting the above with its solution.

Yours, with respect,  
J. T. G.

With pleasure — the translation is thus:

He that is without name, without friends, without coin, without country, is still at least a man, and he that has all these is no more.



In the item on “Tennyson vs Longfellow,” the first line of two lines quoted from the poem are somewhat misleadingly rendered in Brigham’s printing as three separate m-dashes. In the original, the type used is sufficiently crude that the ends of the m-dashes do not blend cleanly, although it is fairly clear that the intended effect would be one long m-dash. Neither Brigham nor Mabbott explicitly correct the misspelling of Clark and Clarke, although it is properly rendered in the note to the item.

The item on Thomas Paine is numbered by Mabbott as “9x” because it was the ninth item printed, but he intended to rejected it.


[S:0 - CSB43, 1943] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Articles - Edgar Allan Poe’s Contributions to Alexander’s Weekly Messenger (C. S. Brigham) (Contributions for 1840, Jan. - March)