Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “Enigma [on Shakespeare],” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 220-222 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 220, continued:]

[on Shakespeare]

This poem appeared, marked “For the Baltimore Visiter” and [page 221:] signed “P.,” in the Baltimore Saturday Visiter of February 2, 1833. It is the only item so initialed in the file of that year. I examined it by courtesy of the then owner, Miss Elizabeth Cloud Seip, in 1918, and use the poem here by permission of Mr. William H. Koester. I have inserted the word “make” in line 15, as required for sense and meter.

The answers to the puzzles are: 1, Spenser; 2, Homer; 3-4, Aristotle; 5-6, Kallimachos; 7-8, Shelley; 9, Pope; 10, Euripides; 11, Mark Akenside, author of Pleasures of the Imagination; 12, Samuel Rogers, author of Pleasures of Memory; 13-14, Euripides again; 15-16, Shakespeare.

In the Literary Era for August 1901, Edward M. Alfriend relates that in 1849 Poe said to his father, Thomas M. Alfriend, of Shakespeare: “If all the dramatists of antiquity, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Plautus, Terence were combined in one, they would not be worthy to touch the hem of his garments.” According to her “Recollections” in the Home Journal of July 21, 1860, Poe talked to Mary Elizabeth Bronson at Fordham about 1847 of how “sensible” Pope was. And some of Shelley’s opinions must have horrified our poet. Callimachus is mentioned in Poe’s early tale “A Decided Loss.”

In 1833 Poe wrote for the Visiter under his own name and the pseudonym “Tamerlane,” as can be seen immediately below. How many Baltimoreans given to writing graceful enigmas, to the occasional use of “P.” as a signature, and holding the same opinions as Poe of both Shakespeare and Pope, were contributing to the Visiter in 1833? I assign the poem confidently to Poe.



The spelling “Shakspeare” was common in Poe’s day.


[S:1 - TOM1P, 1969] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions-The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (Enigma)