Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “Theatrical Rats,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. III: Tales and Sketches (1978), pp. 1244-1245 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 1244, continued:]


The rats infesting the leading theater of New York were well known and frequently mentioned in the press. In the New Mirror of July 15, 1848, there was a dull satirical story about them signed “B.” — “RATS ATTEND! MASS MEETING AT THE PARK THEATRE ... Your rights are in jeopardy! Your privileges are threatened!” — and so on; and on October 31, 1845, the Evening Mirror printed a note describing a man with a French inscription on his hat — “Mort aux Rats!” — carrying a pole with several dead rats hanging from it and some cages with live ones at his side, obviously seeking patronage. The note ended with the quip, “Will no one send him to the Park Theatre?”

The following paragraph was printed in a column headed “The Drama” in the Broadway Journal of November 1, 1845 (2:259-260). Poe was then its sole editor, and hence obviously the author of the “quaint and curious” little jeu d’esprit.


The well-known company of rats at the Park Theatre understand, it is said, their cue perfectly. It is worth the price of admission to see their performance. By long training they know precisely the time when the curtain rises, and the exact degree in which the audience is spellbound by what is going on. At the sound of the bell they sally out; scouring the pit for chance peanuts and orange-peel. When, by the rhyming couplets, they are made [page 1245:] aware that the curtain is about to fall, they disappear — through respect for the moving heels of the audience. Their temerity is regulated by the intensity of the performers. A profitable engagement might be made, we think, with “the celebrated Dog Billy.”(1)

[page 1225, continued:]


1.  The dog was in the act of William Cole, a contortionist, known as the India Rubber Man, or the Chinese Nondescript, who appeared at P. T. Barnum's American Museum in 1844 and 1845. There are numerous references to Cole's “sagacious” or “wonderful” dog in the newspapers of the time. For examples see the Sunday Times, April 14, 1844; the New-York Tribune, March 1, 1845; G. C. D. Odell, Annals of the New York Stage, IV, 333, 417, and passim. An advertisement in the Sunday Times and Messenger, May 5, 1844, calls him “the dog Billy.”





[S:1 - TOM3T, 1978] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions-The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (Theatrical Rats)