Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “Philosophy of Furniture,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. II: Tales and Sketches (1978), pp. 494-504 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 494, continued:]


This sketch includes a slight narrative element, and is closely akin to “Landor's Cottage.” That story is an idealized description of Poe's cottage at Fordham, but to what extent the “Philosophy of Furniture” portrays a room in one of Poe's Philadelphia homes cannot be known. However, Lambert A. Wilmer records that Poe “kept a piano to gratify” Virginia Poe's “taste for music, at a time when his income could scarcely afford such an indulgence.”*

Even if Poe could never afford such a modestly luxurious home as that in “Philosophy of Furniture,” he had one opportunity to act as a “decorist.” When Marie Louise Shew moved to 51 (now 17 West) Tenth Street soon after May 1, 1847, she tells us: “I gave him carte blanche to furnish the music-room and library as he pleased. I had hung the pictures myself, ... placing over the piano a large painting by Albano [sic]. Mr. Poe admired it for hours, and ... was much pleased at my request, and my uncle said he had never seen him so cheerful.” [page 495:]

Poe's “Philosophy of Furniture” was probably written in March or April 1840.


(A) Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, May 1840 (6:243-245); (B) Broadway Journal, May 3, 1845 (1:273-275; (C) Works (1850), II, 299-305.

Griswold's version (C) which restores the first title is followed. Poe's care in revising this piece is evident. The appreciable number of changes he made in the Burton's Gentleman's Magazine text (A) for the Broadway Journal (B) included the elimination of the opening paragraph and the rephrasing of sentences, as well as changes in words and italicization.

Both the Broadway Journal (B) and the Griswold (C) texts have an error in “Americans of modern means,” where modest or moderate is obviously intended. As there is no evidence to substantiate a change from Poe's early use of moderate, it is adopted for this text.


Spirit of the Times (Philadelphia), May 16, 1840, from Burton's Gentleman's Magazine; New-York Mirror (Weekly), May 17, 1845, prefaced by: “The following Essay on a subject that, in New York at least, has more of May-day in it than dog-wood blossoms, birds or willow buds, is well worth copying entire from our excellent contemporary, the Broadway Journal.”

PHILOSOPHY OF FURNITURE.   [C]   [[n]]   [[v]]

In the internal decoration, if not in the external architecture of their residences, the English are supreme. The Italians have but little sentiment beyond marbles and colors. In France, meliora probant, deteriora sequuntur(1) — the people are too much a race of gad-abouts to{a} maintain those household proprieties of which, indeed, they have a delicate appreciation, or at least the elements of a proper sense. The Chinese and most of the eastern races have a [page 496:] warm but inappropriate fancy. The Scotch are poor decorists.(2) The Dutch {bb}have, perhaps, an indeterminate{bb} idea that a curtain is not a cabbage. In Spain they are all curtains — a nation of hangmen.{c} The Russians do{d} not furnish. The Hottentots and Kickapoos are very well in their way. The Yankees alone are preposterous.(3)

How this happens, it is not difficult to see. We have no aristocracy of blood, and having therefore as a natural, and indeed as an inevitable thing, fashioned for ourselves an aristocracy of dollars, the display of wealth has here to take the place and perform the office of the heraldic display in monarchical countries. By a transition readily understood, and which might have been as readily{e} foreseen, we have been brought to merge in simple show our notions of taste itself.

To speak less abstractly.{f} In England, for example, no mere parade of costly appurtenances would be so likely as with us, to create an impression of the beautiful in respect to the appurtenances themselves — or of taste as regards{g} the proprietor: — this for the reason, first, that wealth is not, in England, the loftiest object of ambition as constituting a nobility; and secondly, that there, the true nobility of {hh}blood, confining itself within the strict limits of legitimate taste,{hh} rather avoids than affects that mere{i} costliness in which a parvenu{j} rivalry may at any time{k} be successfully attempted.{l} The people will{m} imitate the nobles, and the result is a thorough diffusion of the proper{n} feeling. But in America, {oo}the coins current being the sole arms of the{oo} aristocracy, their display may be said, in general,{p} to be the sole means of aristocratic distinction; and the populace, looking always upward{q} for models, are insensibly led to confound the two entirely separate ideas of magnificence and beauty. In short, the cost of an article of furniture has at length come to be, with us, nearly the sole test of its [page 497:] merit in a decorative point of view — and this test, once established, has led the way to many analogous errors, readily traceable to the one primitive folly.

There could be nothing{r} more directly offensive to the eye of an artist than the interior of what is termed in the United {ss}States — that is to say, in Appallachia — (4) a{ss} well-furnished apartment. Its most usual defect is a{t} want of keeping. We speak of the keeping of a room as we would of the keeping of a picture — for both the picture and the room are amenable to those undeviating principles which regulate all varieties of art; and very nearly the same laws by which we decide on{u} the higher merits of a painting, suffice for {vv}decision on{vv} the adjustment of a chamber.

A want of keeping is observable sometimes in the character of the several pieces of furniture, but generally in their colors or modes of adaptation to use. Very{w} often the eye is offended by their inartistical arrangement. Straight lines are too prevalent — too uninterruptedly continued — or clumsily interrupted at right angles. If curved lines occur, they are repeated into unpleasant uniformity. {xx}By undue precision, the appearance of many a fine apartment is utterly spoiled.{xx}

Curtains are rarely well disposed, or well chosen in respect to{y} other decorations. With formal furniture, curtains are out of place; and an extensive{z} volume of drapery of any kind is, under any circumstances, irreconcilable with good taste — the proper quantum, as well as the proper adjustment, depending{a} upon the character of the general effect.

Carpets are better understood of late than of ancient days, but the still very frequently err in their patterns and colors. {bb}The soul of the apartment is the carpet.{bb} From it are deduced not only the hues but the forms of all objects incumbent. A judge at common law may be{c} an ordinary man; a good judge of a carpet must [page 498:] be a genius. Yet we{d} have heard discoursing{e} of carpets, with the air{f}d’un mouton qui rêve{g} (5) fellows who{h} should not and who could not be entrusted with the management of their own moustaches.{i} Every one knows that a large floor may{j} have a covering of large figures, and that{k} a small one {ll}must have a covering{ll} of small — yet this is not all the knowledge in the world. As regards texture, the Saxony is alone admissible. Brussels is the preterpluperfect tense of fashion, and Turkey is taste in its dying agonies.(6) Touching pattern — a carpet should not be bedizzened out like a Riccaree Indian(7) — all red chalk, yellow ochre, and cock's feathers. In brief — distinct grounds, and vivid circular or cycloid{m} figures, of no meaning, are here Median laws.(8) The abomination of flowers, or representations of well-known objects of any kind, should not{n} be endured within the limits of Christendom. Indeed, whether on carpets, or curtains, or tapestry,{o} or ottoman coverings, all upholstery of this nature should be rigidly Arabesque. As for those{p} antique floor-cloths still{q} {rr}occasionally seen{rr} in the dwellings of the rabble — cloths of huge, sprawling, and radiating devices,{s} stripe-interspersed, and glorious with all hues, among which no ground is intelligible — these{t} are but the wicked invention of a race of timeservers and money-lovers — children of Baal and worshippers of Mammon — Benthams,{u} who, to {vv}spare thought and economize{vv} fancy, first cruelly invented the Kaleidoscope,(9) and then established {ww}joint-stock companies{ww} to twirl it by steam.

Glare is a leading error in the philosophy of American household decoration — an error easily recognised as deduced from the perversion of taste just specified. We are violently enamored of gas and of glass. The former is totally inadmissible within doors. [page 499:] Its harsh and unsteady light offends.{x} No one{y} having both brains and eyes will use it. A mild, or what artists term a cool light, with its consequent warm shadows, will do wonders for even an ill-furnished apartment. Never was a more lovely thought than that of the astral lamp. We{z} mean, of course, the astral lamp proper{a} — the lamp of Argand, with its original plain ground-glass shade, and its tempered and uniform moonlight rays.(10) The cut-glass shade is a weak invention of the enemy. The eagerness with which we have adopted it, partly on account of its flashiness, but principally on account of its greater cost, is a good commentary on{b} the proposition with which we{c} began. It is not too much to say, that the deliberate employer of a cut-glass shade, is{d} either radically deficient in taste, or blindly subservient to the caprices of fashion. The light proceeding from one of these gaudy abominations is unequal, broken, and painful. It alone is sufficient to mar a world of good effect in the furniture subjected to its influence. Female loveliness, in especial, is more than one-half disenchanted beneath its evil eye.

In the matter of glass, generally, we proceed upon false principles. Its leading feature is glitter — and in that one word how much of all that is detestable do we express! Flickering, unquiet lights, are sometimes pleasing — to children and idiots always so — but in the embellishment of a room they should be scrupulously avoided. In truth, even strong steady lights are inadmissible. The huge and unmeaning glass chandeliers, prism-cut, gas-lighted,{e} and without shade, which dangle{f} in our most fashionable drawing-rooms, may be cited as the quintessence of {gg}all that is false in taste or preposterous in{gg} folly.

The rage for glitter — because its idea has become, as we{h} before observed, confounded with that of magnificence in the abstract — has led us,{i} also, to the exaggerated employment of mirrors. We line our dwellings with great British plates, and then imagine [page 500:] we have done a fine thing. Now the slightest thought will be sufficient to convince any one who has an eye at all, of the ill effect of numerous looking-glasses, and especially of large ones. Regarded apart from its reflection, the mirror presents a continuous, flat, colorless, unrelieved surface, — a thing always {jj}and obviously unpleasant.{jj} Considered as a reflector, it is potent in producing a monstrous and odious uniformity: and the evil is here aggravated, not in merely{k} direct proportion with the augmentation of its sources, but in a ratio constantly increasing. In fact, a room with four or five mirrors arranged at random, is, for all purposes of artistic{l} show, a room of no shape at all. If we add to this evil,{m} the attendant glitter upon glitter, we have a perfect farrago of discordant and displeasing effects. The veriest {nn}bumpkin, on{nn} entering an apartment so bedizzened, would be instantly aware of something wrong, although he might be altogether unable to assign a cause for his dissatisfaction. But let the same person{o} be led into a room tastefully furnished, and he would be startled into an exclamation of {pp}pleasure and surprise.{pp}

It is an evil growing out of our republican institutions, that here a man of large purse has usually a very little soul which he keeps in it. The corruption of taste is a portion or{q} a pendant of the dollar-manufacture. As we grow rich, our ideas grow rusty. It is, therefore, not among our aristocracy that we must {rr}look (if at all, in Appallachia,){rr} for the spirituality of a British boudoir. But we{s} have seen apartments in the tenure of Americans {tt}of moderate means,{tt} (11) which, in negative merit at least, might vie with any of the or-molu’d cabinets of our friends across the water. Even now,{u} there is present to our{v} mind's eye a small and not ostentatious chamber with whose decorations no fault can be found. The proprietor lies asleep on{w} a sofa — the weather is cool — the time is [page 501:] near midnight: we{x} will make a sketch of the room {yy}during his slumber.{yy}

It is oblong — some thirty feet in length and twenty-five in breadth — a shape affording the best (ordinary){z} opportunities for the adjustment of furniture. It has but one {aa}door — by no means a wide one — which{aa} is at one end of the parallelogram, and but two windows, which are at the other. These latter are large, reaching down{b} to the floor — have{c} deep recesses — and open on{d} an Italian veranda. Their panes are of a crimson-tinted glass, set in rose-wood framings, {ee}more massive{ee} than usual. They are curtained within the recess, by a thick silver tissue adapted to the shape of the window, and hanging {ff}loosely in small{ff} volumes. Without the recess are curtains of an exceedingly rich crimson silk, fringed with a deep network of gold, and lined with the silver tissue, which {gg}is the material of{gg} the exterior blind. There are no cornices; but the folds of the whole fabric (which are sharp rather than massive, and have an airy appearance,) issue from beneath a broad entablature of rich giltwork, which encircles the room at the junction of the ceiling and walls. The drapery is thrown open also, or closed, by means of a thick rope of gold loosely enveloping it, and resolving itself readily into a knot; no pins or other such devices are apparent. The colors of the curtains and their{h} fringe — the tints of crimson and gold — {ii}appear everywhere in profusion, and determine{ii} the character of the room.{j} The carpet — of Saxony material — is quite half an inch thick, and is of the same crimson ground, relieved simply by the appearance{k} of a gold cord (like that festooning the curtains) {ll}slightly relieved above the surface of the ground, and{ll} thrown upon it in such a manner as to form a{m} succession of short irregular {nn}curves — one occasionally{nn} overlaying the other.{o} [page 502:] {pp}The walls are prepared with a glossy paper of a silver gray tint, spotted{pp} with small Arabesque devices of a fainter hue{q} of the prevalent crimson. Many paintings relieve the expanse of the paper. These are chiefly landscapes of an imaginative cast — such as the fairy grottoes of Stanfield,(12) or the lake of the Dismal Swamp of{r} Chapman.(13) {ss}There are, nevertheless, three or four female heads, of an ethereal beauty — portraits in the manner of Sully.{ss} (14) The tone of each picture{t} is warm, but dark. There are no “brilliant effects.” {uu}Repose speaks in all.{uu} Not one{v} is of small size. Diminutive paintings give that spotty look to a room, which is the blemish of so many a fine work of Art overtouched. The frames are broad but not deep,{w} and richly carved, without being {xx}dulled or{xx} filagreed. {yy}They have{yy} the whole lustre of burnished{z} gold. They lie flat on{a} the walls, and do not hang off with cords. The designs themselves {bb}are often seen to better advantage{bb} in this latter position, but the general appearance of the chamber is injured. {cc}But one mirror — and this not a very large one — is visible. In shape it is nearly circular — and it is hung so that a reflection of the person can be obtained from it in none of the ordinary sitting-places of the room.{cc} Two large low{d} sofas of rose-wood and crimson silk, gold-flowered,{e} form the only {ff}seats, with the exception of two light conversation chairs, also of rose-wood.{ff} There is a {gg}pianoforte, (rose-wood, also,){gg} without {hh}cover, and thrown open{hh} An octagonal table, formed altogether{i} of the richest gold-threaded marble, is placed near one of the {jj}sofas. This{jj} is also without cover — the drapery of the curtains has been thought sufficient. Four [page 503:] large and gorgeous Sèvres{k} vases, in which bloom{l} a profusion{m} of sweet and vivid flowers,{n} occupy the {oo}slightly rounded{oo} angles of the room. A tall{p} candelabrum, bearing a small antique lamp with highly{q} perfumed oil, is standing near the head of my sleeping friend. Some light and graceful hanging shelves, with golden edges and crimson silk cords and gold tassels, sustain two or three hundred magnificently bound books.(15) Beyond these things, there is no furniture, if we except an Argand lamp, with a plain crimson-tinted ground-glass{r} shade, which depends from the lofty vaulted{s} ceiling by a single slender{t} gold chain, and throws a tranquil{u} but magical radiance over all.(16)


[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 495:]

Title:  The Philosophy of Furniture (A); House Furniture (B)

The earliest text (A) begins with a paragraph eliminated in later texts:

“Philosophy,” says Hegel, “is utterly useless and fruitless, and, for this very reason, is the sublimest of all pursuits, the most deserving of our attention, and the most worthy of our zeal” — a somewhat Coleridegy assertion, with a rivulet of deep meaning in a meadow of words. It would be wasting time to disentangle the paradox — and the more so as no one will deny that Philosophy has its merits, and is applicable to an infinity of purposes. There is reason, it is said, in the roasting of eggs, and there is philosophy even in furniture — a philosophy nevertheless which seems to be more imperfectly understood by Americans than by any civilized nation upon the face of the earth. [[n]]

a  to study and (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 496:]

bb ... bb  have merely a vague (A)

c  hangmen. (A)

d  no (A) misprint

e  as readily / easily (A)

f  abstractedly. (A)

g  respects (A)

hh ... hh  blood (A)

i  that mere omitted (A)

j  parvenu (A)

k  at any time omitted (A)

l  attempted, confining itself within the rigorous limits, and to the analytical investigation, of legitimate taste. (A)

m  naturally (A)

n  the proper / a right (A)

oo ... oo  dollars being the supreme insignia of (A)

p  general terms, (A)

q  always upward / up (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 497:]

r  scarcely any thing (A)

ss ... ss  States, a (A)

t  a preposterous (A)

u  upon (A)

vv ... vv  a decision upon (A)

w  Very (A)

xx ... xx  Undue precision spoils the appearance of many a room. (A)

y  to the (A)

z  excessive (A)

a  depends (A)

bb ... bb  A carpet is the soul of an apartment. (A)

c  may be (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 498:]

d  I (A)

e  fellows discourse (A)

f  visage of a sheep in a reverie — (A)

g  réve,” (C) accent corrected from A, B

h  fellows who / — who (A)

i  mustachios. (A)

j  should (A)

k  Omitted (A)

ll ... ll  Omitted (A)

m  or cycloid omitted (A)

n  never (A)

o  paper-hangings, (A)

p  As for those / Those (A)

q  which are still (A)

rr ... rr  seen occasionally (A)

s  devises, (C) misprint, corrected from A, B

t  Omitted (A)

u  men (A)

vv ... vv  save trouble of thought and exercise of (A)

ww ... ww  a patent company (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 499:]

x  is positively offensive. (A)

y  man (A)

z  I (A)

a  proper, and do not wish to be misunderstood (A)

b  upon (A)

c  I (A)

d  is a person (A)

e  gas-litten, (A)

f  dangle by night (A)

gg ... gg  false taste, as so many concentrations of preposterous (A)

h  I (A)

i  Omitted (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 500:]

jj ... jj  unpleasant, and obviously so. (A)

k  not in merely / in no (A)

l  artistical (A)

m  evil, omitted (A)

nn ... nn  bumpkin, not addle-headed, upon (A)

o  individual (A)

pp ... pp  surprise and of pleasure. (A)

q  and (A)

rr ... rr  look if at all, in the United States, (A)

s  I (A)

tt ... tt  — men of exceedingly moderate means yet rarae aves of good taste — (A); of modem means, (B, C) misprint, emended by the editor

u  now, / now (A)

v  my (A)

w  upon (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 501:]

x  I (A)

yy ... yy  ere he awakes. (A)

z  Omitted (A)

aa ... aa  door, which (A)

b  downwards (A)

c  are situated in (A)

d  upon (A)

ee ... ee  of a kind somewhat broader (A)

ff ... ff  loosely, but having no (A)

gg ... gg  forms (A)

h  its (A)

ii ... ii  form (A)

j  room, and appear every where in profusion. (A)

k  appearance (A)

ll ... ll  Omitted (A)

m  a close (A)

nn ... nn  curves, no one (A)

o  After this: This carpet has no border. (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 502:]

pp ... pp  The paper on the walls is of a glossy, silvery hue, intermingled (A)

q  tint (A)

r  of our own (A)

ss ... ss  Omitted (A)

t  Omitted (A)

uu ... uu  Omitted (A)

v  one of the pictures (A)

w  but not deep, (A)

xx ... xx  Omitted (A)

yy ... yy  Their profuse gilding gives them (A)

z  Omitted (A)

a  upon (A)

bb ... bb  may, sometimes, be best seen (A)

cc ... cc  No mirror is visible — nor chairs. (A)

d  Omitted (A)

e  Omitted (A)

ff ... ff  seats. (A)

gg ... gg  piano-forte — also of rose-wood, and (A)

hh ... hh  cover. Mahogany has been avoided. (A)

i  entirely (A)

jj ... jj  sofas — this table (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 503:]

k  Sevres (A)

l  grow (A)

m  number (A)

n  flowers in full bloom, (A)

oo ... oo  Omitted (A)

p  tall and magnificent (A)

q  strongly (A)

r  glass (A)

s  Omitted (A)

t  Omitted (A)

u  subdued (A)

[page 503, continued:]


In the canceled paragraph, the remark ascribed to Hegel may represent the general view of that sage rather than his exact words. Poe has the same allusion in “Marginalia,” number 245 (SLM, June 1849, p. 337). For reason in roasting an egg, compare Pope's “Second Epistle of the Second Book of Horace,” line 85: “The vulgar boil, the learned roast an egg.” [[updated note]]

1.  The Latin commonplace from Ovid's Metamorphoses, VII, 20-21, means “approve the better, follow the worse,” and was used by Poe again in a review of A Grammar of the English Language by Hugh A. Pue in Graham's for July 1841.

2.  “Decorist” does not appear in any of the major dictionaries of Poe's time, or of ours — with the exception of the OED, which lists it, giving as the single example Poe's use in “The Assignation.” He used the word again in a review of Bulwer's Night and Morning in Graham's, April 1841.

3.  Compare mention in “The Business Man” of “an ornamental mud-hovel ...Dutch pagoda ... or an ingenious little bit of fancy work, either Esquimau, Kickapoo or Hottentot.” There is also a humorous account of pretentious architecture in Brooklyn in the fifth letter of Doings of Gotham.

4.  Appalachia (variously spelled) and Allegania were proposed as new national names for this country, and were much discussed in 1845 when Poe revised this article. See also “Marginalia,” number 184 (Graham's, December 1846, p. 312).

5.  Compare “Never Bet the Devil Your Head,” at note 24. [page 504:]

6.  Compare “Taste kicking in articulo mortis” in Poe's “Fifty Suggestions,” Number 26 (Graham's, June 1849).

7.  Ricaree is the name used by George Catlin and others for the Arikara tribe of Plains Indians; they are also mentioned in “The Journal of Julius Rodman,” chapter IV.

8.  For the unchanging laves of the Medes and Persians see Daniel 6:8.

9.  Poe's unsympathetic references to Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), the utilitarian philosopher, are frequent (see “Diddling,” “Mellonta Tauta,” and the preface to “Marginalia”). The Kaleidoscope was invented by Sir David Brewster, a Scottish physicist, in 1816; there were two articles on it in Blackwood's, in May and June 1818, occasioned by disputes over the patent and over schemes of mechanizing the device.

10.  Aimé Argand, a Swiss, invented the lamp named for him in 1784; it has the hollow wick and glass chimney typical of oil lamps generally used in America in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

11.  In the canceled passage, the Latin phrase meaning “rare birds” has been traced to “rara avis in terris,” Juvenal's figurative use in his Satires, VI, 165. Poe uses the whole Latin phrase in “Hop-Frog.”

12.  William Clarkson Stanfield, R.A. (1793-1867), painted romantic scenes; his illustration of Comus in the Summer House at Buckingham Palace was famous. He is also mentioned in “The Landscape Garden.”

13.  John Gadsby Chapman (1808-1889), a native of Alexandria, Virginia, had held an exhibition of his paintings there in 1831. His “Lake of the Dismal Swamp” was exhibited in New York, 1836, at the National Academy of Design, as number 177, the year he became an Academician. An engraving of it by James Smillie was published soon after by Bancroft and Holley, (See Georgia Stamm Chamberlain, Studies on John Gadsby Chapman, 1963, p. 40.) The painting may well have recalled a memory of Poe's boyhood; see his early poem “The Lake,” Mabbott, I, 82ff.

14.  One of Poe's Richmond schoolmates was a nephew of Thomas Sully (1783-1872), whom Poe knew as a friend in Philadelphia. Poe admired Sully, and called his portrait of Fanny Kemble “one of the finest things in the world” in his review of The Gift for 1836 in the Southern Literary Messenger, September 1836. Poe's friend Robert Sully studied under his uncle for a time and also became an artist. One of his paintings is thought to have inspired “The Oval Portrait.”

15.  Poe himself had a hanging bookshelf in the cottage at Fordham, according to the reminiscences of Mrs. Mary Gove Nichols, published originally in the London Sixpenny Magazine, February 1863 — quoted in Woodberry's Life (1909), II, 214.

16.  At this point in the sequence of Poe's tales the reader feels that no room described in such fond detail by the author would be complete without its hanging lamp. Unlike some of the others this one has nothing sinister or perhaps even significant about it. It is simply as if he had written Edgar A. Poe after one of his manuscripts.


[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 494:]

*  “Recollections of Edgar A. Poe” in the Baltimore Daily Commercial, May 23, 1866; see p. 32 in my edition of Wilmer's Merlin (1941), where the article is reprinted.

  See Ingram, Life and Letters, p. 361; and Phillips, Poe the Man, II, 1268. The latter names the uncle, Hiram Barney, a lawyer. The authenticity of the picture by Francesco Albani can be doubted.



Concerning the cancelled paragraph, with the quotation from Hegel, Poe's source is almost certainly a footnote from a review of The Collected Works (Gesammelte Novellen) of Johann Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853), appearing in the American edition of the Foreign Quarterly Review for July 1839, vol. 23, no. 46 (23:201). There, the statement is given as:

“Philosophy,” said Hegel, “is utterly useless and fruitless — and for this very reason it is the sublimest of all pursuits, the most deserving of our attention, and the most worthy of our zeal”

The same comment also caught the eye of the editors of the New York Mirror, which included a brief filler item in the issue for October 5, 1839, vol. 17, no. 15 (17:119), which reads:

Philosophy — A German philosopher, Hegel, says, after ample experience: — “Philosophy is utterly useless and fruitless — and for this very reason it is the sublimest of all pursuits, the most deserving of our attention, and the most worthy of our zeal” This definition is not equal to that given by Burton in his character of a tipsey tailer: — “Philosophy,” he says, “is like brandy and water — especially brandy.”

Information for this note was provided to the Poe Society by Ton Fafianie, in an e-mail dated May 30, 2014. In his edition of The Annotated Poe (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2015), Kevin Hayes independently refers to the same review in the Foreign Quarterly Review in a note to “The Philosophy of Furniture” (155n1), but he cites the British edition of the journal, which is less likely to be Poe's direct source, and gives the reference as “32(1839), 358,” with the correct page for the British version but transposing the numbers for the volume.

Because Poe's source is second-hand, any reference to this essay as suggesting that Poe had first-hand knowledge of Hegel's writings would be unfounded.


[S:1 - TOM2T, 1978] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions-The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (Philosophy of Furniture)