Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. B. R. Pollin), “Fifty Suggestions,” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan PoeVol. II: The Brevities (1985), pp. 475-507 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 475:]


Graham's Magazine

May, June, 1849

XXXIV, 317-319, 363-364

  * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  

Fifty Suggestions 1

It is observable that, while among all nations the omni-color, white,(a) has been received as an emblem of the Pure, the no-color, black, has by no means been generally admitted as sufficiently typical of Impurity. There are blue devils as well as black; and when we think very ill of a woman, and wish to blacken her character, we merely call her “a bluestocking” and advise her to read, in Rabelais’ “Gargantua,” the chapter “de ce qui est [sic for qu’est] signifie par les couleurs blacc et bleu.” There is far more difference between these “couleurs,” in fact, than that which exists between simple black and white. Your “blue,” when we come to talk of stockings, is black in issimo — “nigrum nigrius nigro” — like the matter from which Raymond Lully first manufactured his alcohol.(b)


white) a. In the color-contrast, Poe coins words expressing the two extremes: “omni-color” and “no-color” although the OED lists the form “no-colored.” He is jesting on various meanings of black and of blue devils, the latter meaning “a fit of the blues” or “low spirits” or “hypochondriac melancholy” (OED), whereas the blackness of the devil appears in popular lore, as in “Nor is the devil himself so black as he is painted.” For the term “blue-stocking” for a learned lady, see M 283, another instance here of Poe's tendency to dislike blunt, direct, and perhaps officious ladies, such as Margaret Fuller, despite his partiality for poetic and refined women (see his gallantry in M 23). For Rabelais’ chapter on “white and blue” see Gargantua, 1.10. Poe used this same text for a ref. in his 4/41 Graham's rev. of Wilmer's Quacks of Helicon (H 10.194), referred to Grandgousier in his 2/42 Graham's review of Mathews’ Wakondah (H 11.25), and to Gargantua in “Valdemar” and “Hop-Frog” (TOM 1234, 1345). [page 476:]

alcohol) b. This part of Poe's article comes from two passages in William Landor (pseud. for Horace Binney Wallace), Stanley (Phila., 1838; 2 vols.), source of numerous Poe borrowings. The first part is from a discussion by one of the characters: “Bulwer ... always writes in issimo. He uses the dialect of Brobdignag [sic]” (1.231-32). The second makes ref. to a man who “is like the substance from which Raymond Sully [sic for Lully] first made alcohol, ‘nigrum nigrius nigro“’ (1.127). This is probably Poe's only contact (save for one in Notre-Dame) with the name of the celebrated learned Majorcan (1235-1315), born Ramon Lull or Llull or Raymond Lully, who is usually connected not with the making of alcohol but with nitric acid, prepared by a new process and called by him “eau forte.” He had encountered the name also in Hugo's ref. to the text of a Latin citation allegedly by Lull which he then used as the motto for “Eleonora”; the rather complicated matter has been fully explained (DP, ch. 3, 38-53, “The Motto of ‘Eleonora‘”). Poe's starting his Fifty Suggestions thus shows the obsessive force via these learned snippets from Hugo's and Wallace's novels, during the last year of his life.

Fifty Suggestions 2

Mr. ————, I perceive, has been appointed Librarian to the new — Athenæum. To him, the appointment is advantageous in many respects. Especially: — “Mon cousin, voici une belle occasion pour apprendre à lire!

Note: The Librarian and institution are still unknown. This witticism can be found in the Souvenirs de la Marquise de Crequy, vol. 5 (p. 70), contained in the Chroniques pittoresques et critiques de l‘Oeil de Boeuf (1832), ed. Georges Touchard-Fosse. Later editions date from 1845, 1855, 1864, 1877, 1878-79, 1908, etc. It was said by the Count de Maurepas to one Bignon, an incompetent chief of the Town Hall who had to be removed before the end of his term by being made director of the Royal Library at Paris. He was always famous for his verbal stupidities, and Maurepas said to him: “Bignon, mon ami, vous voilà placé commodément: c‘est une belle occasion pour apprendre à lire” (Bignon, my friend, you are well placed there: it's a fine chance to learn how to read.) He used to pretend to be related to the renowned Jerome Bignon, learned lawyer of the 17th century who had been appointed by Richelieu to take charge of the Royal Library, by coincidence. For a parallel witticism see the end of the 2/42 Graham's review of C. Mathews’ Wakondah: “We commend to your careful consideration the remark of M. Timon, ‘que le Ministre de l‘Instruction Publique dolt lui-même savoir parler [page 477:] Français’ [sic]” (H 11.38). Significantly, the preceding sentence concerns “Mes Déserts” (Fontainebleau) which is used also for FS 31.

Fifty Suggestions 3

As far as I can understand the “loving our enemies,” it implies the hating our friends.


Note: The quotation is from Matthew 5.44: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” The idea of the whole is to be found in The Essays of Francis Bacon (OUP, 1890): [concerning Cosmus, Duke of Florence] “You shall read, saith he, that we are commended to forgive our enemies but you never read that we are commended to forgive our friends” (p. 35). Poe shows true familiarity with Bacon's works, q. v. in MM 147, 186, 196, 213, 262, and other loci (PD 7).

Fifty Suggestions 4

In commencing our dinners with gravy soup, no doubt we have taken a hint from Horace.

—— Da, he says, si grave non est,

Quæ prima iratum ventrem placaverit isca.


Note: Poe here quotes from Horace's Sermones or Satires: II, 8.45, which is the usual text save for “isca” which normally is given as “esca” (Poe's unknown and possibly intermediary source is probably responsible). The Loeb Classical Library gives it: “Tell me, if you don‘t mind, what was the first dish to appease an angry appetite?” (p. 239). Poe's pun on “grave-gravy” involves an expression “gravy soup” cited often enough by the OED but found in no modern texts-culinary or lexical.

Fifty Suggestions 5

Of much of our cottage architecture we may safely say, I think, (admitting the good intention,) that it would have been Gothic if it had not felt it its duty to be Dutch. [page 478:]


Note: Poe's subject here is indicated in a title cited by the OED under “cottage”: J. Malton, An Essay on British Cottage Architecture ... comprising Dwellings for the Peasant and Farmer, and Retreats for the Gentleman (1798). The “retreat,” often termed a “cottage orne” like that of the narrator's friend in “The Sphinx” (TOM 1246), perhaps owed its origin to the pastoralism of the 17th and 18th centuries, as seen most magnificently in Marie Antoinette's “laiterie” at Versailles and certainly very extensively in the haunts up the Hudson of New York City's “ten thousand.” Even the mansions at Newport, later in the century, received the designation of “cottage.” The OED defines it through an 1845 citation: “small country residences, and detached suburban houses, adapted to a moderate scale of living, yet with all due attention to comfort and refinement.” Hence Poe develops his concept of an ideal small residence in “Landor's Cottage,” clearly based on the Fordham Cottage, where the pull of Dutch domestic architecture is rather welcomed than deprecated as here. See “the old-fashioned Dutch shingles” and “hard Dutch bricks” of the structure (1336-37), which is a fictive realization of the embowered cottage that he had offered as an ideal to S. H. Whitman in his letter of 10/18/48. Earlier Poe had quoted, apparently with favor, an account alluding to “the domestic Gothic or English Elizabethan architecture” in “Domain of Arnheim” of 3147 (TOM 1275), carried over from the 10/42 “Landscape Garden” (TOM 710). Yet the dissimulation of modern Dutch cottage architecture had earlier been scorned in Letter 5 to the Columbia Spy of 6/12/44 (Doings of Gotham 59) which describes the shore-line “villas” of Brooklyn: “You see nowhere a cottage-everywhere a temple which ‘might have been Grecian had it not been Dutch‘which might have been tasteful had it not been Gothamite.” The present article, of course, is directly taken from his earlier “Letter” with “Gothic” inserted for “Grecian.”

Fifty Suggestions 6

James's multitudinous novels seem to be written upon the plan of “the songs of the Bard of Schiraz,” in which, we are assured by Fadladeen, “the same beautiful thought occurs again and again in every possible variety of phrase.”


Note: Here Poe adapts a statement that he has used earlier in “Eleonora” (see below) for deprecation of the enormously popular novels of George Payne Rainsford James (1801-1860), follower of Scott, rival of Bulwer and Ainsworth in the historical romance, and butt of Thackeray's satire. The Br. Mus. catalogue lists over fifty separate titles of fiction, which belies Poe's review of his Richelieu in the 10/36 SLM (H 9.168-70), [page 479:] starting out with “James has never.. . been popular” but well estimating his faults and limited merits. For other refs. see H 10.132, 207, and 11.91. It may be of interest to readers of “Usher” that S. M. Ellis titled his James biography The Solitary Horseman (1927) alluding to this character on a dark, desolate landscape, appearing at the beginning of his fictions. Presumably the “same beautiful thought” for James is to instruct his reader in morality and history through his detailed semi-authentic plots.

Earlier in the 9/4/41 “Eleonora” Poe wrote: about “one sorrowful theme, interweaving it into all our converse, as in the songs of the bard of Shiraz [Schiraz in later versions]” and “the same images are found occurring, again and again, in every impressive variation of phrase” (TOM 641). This is a ref. to Hafiz, penname of Shams-ud-din Mahomet, the 14th century Persian Anacreon, whose tomb at Shiraz is still visited by pilgrims. Poe may have derived his name from Thomas Moore's Lalla Rookh, which provided him with much Oriental “learning” for Al Aaraaf and other early works. Fadladeen is the Great Chamberlain of the Royal Court at Delhi, who accompanies the princess (of the title) all the way to her nuptials in Cashmere to the prince of Bucharia before her further journey to her new home. The long poem consists of the poetic tales recounted en route by the prince, disguised as an itinerant minstrel, with Fadladeen's frequent and pompous comments. However, two close readings of the text have not revealed the alleged observation about Hafiz. Closest to Poe's words are those of Fadladeen: “As to the versification ... it had neither the copious flow of Ferdosi, the sweetness of Hafez [sic], nor the sententious march of Sadi” (Poetical Works of Moore [N. Y., 1853], 6.148). The third mentioned was of greater fame, also greater versatility. Muslih Al-Din Sa‘di (1194-1282 or 1292), who, after extensive travels and studies, settled under royal patronage at Shiraz, is noted chiefly for the Gulistan or “Rose Garden,” an ethical and humorous miscellany in rhymed prose (1258). Poe writes: “With Persian Saadi in his Gulistan” in Al Aaraaf (Poems 113.209), influenced probably only by Moore's refs. in Lalla Rookh.

Fifty Suggestions 7

Some of our foreign lions resemble the human brain in one very striking particular. They are without any sense themselves and yet are the centres of sensation.


Note: The common term for “celebrity” then was “lion,” as used here. Poe was resentful of the accolades, attention, and remuneration lavished upon such visitors to this country as Dickens and James Silk [page 480:] Buckingham. In his 1835 SLM tale (TOM 174 ff.), “Lion-izing,” he satirizes the groundless acclaim and favor in society granted to flashy newcomers, often odd and from abroad (e.g., Willis in the salons of London). As often, Poe enjoys the humor of a pun (as in “sensation”; see MM 87, 235, 253).

Fifty Suggestions 8

Mirabeau, I fancy, acquired his wonderful tact at foreseeing and meeting contingencies, during his residence in the stronghold of If.


Note: Count Honoré Mirabeau (1749-1791), great French statesman, political theoretician, and orator, was, in his early life, a thorough rake whose outrageous behavior brought him into several prisons through lettres de cachet; one, secured by his father, took him to the “Chateau d‘If” or the stronghold of the island of If (the yew-tree), 9120174-5/25/ 75. Since the reasons were debt and violent quarrels with a gentleman, Poe's remark about this one of several incarcerations in the 1/42 “Exordium” of Graham's (H 11.6) is inappropriate: “We are ... in doubt as was Mirabeau in the castle of If.” There and in FS 8 Poe indulges in a pun on “if” in the style of FS 7. He is correct about the “meeting contingencies” however, for Mirabeau faced many in France, Holland, England and elsewhere. Poe alludes to him also in M 250 and in a 10/42 review (H 11.137).

Fifty Suggestions 9

Cottle's “Reminiscences of Coleridge” is just such a book as damns its perpetrator forever in the opinion of every gentleman who reads it.(a) More and more every day do we moderns pavoneggiarsi about our Christianity; yet, so far as the spirit of Christianity is concerned, we are immeasurably behind the ancients.(b) Mottoes and proverbs are the indices of national character; and the Anglo-Saxons are disgraced in having no proverbial equivalent to the “De mortuis nil nisi bonum.” Moreover — where, in all statutory Christendom, shall we find a law so Christian as the “Defuncti injurid ne afficiantur” of the Twelve Tables?

The simple negative injunction of the Latin law and proverb — the injunction not to do ill to the dead — seems at a first glance, scarcely susceptible of improvement in the delicate respect of its terms.(c) I cannot help thinking, however, that the sentiment, if not the idea intended, is more forcibly conveyed in an apop[h]thegm by one of the old English [page 481:] moralists, James Puckle. By an ingenious figure of speech he contrives to imbue the negation of the Roman command with a spirit of active and positive beneficence. “When speaking of the dead,” he says, in his “Grey Cap for a Green Head,” “so fold up your discourse that their virtues may be outwardly shown, while their vices are wrapped up in silence.”(d)


reads it) a. Joseph Cottle, a bookseller, included anecdotes, letters, descriptions of excursions, and chit-chat concerning his two friends in Reminiscences of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey (London, 1837; rev. ed., 1847), with no trace of derogation. Poe's statement is either meaningless or based on error-perhaps on real ignorance of the volume itself.

ancients) b. Poe uses this Italian word for “strut like a peacock” in two other loci in his works, q. v. in M 265 a, always with the incorrect infinitive construction.

terms) c. The alleged Twelve Tables’ statement appears in Pin 25 and also in “Never Bet the Devil” (TOM 622) where it is fully glossed (633n8). “Let the dead suffer no injury” is of uncertain origin but is not in the Twelve Tables (but see Pin 25 note), while “Nothing of the dead but good” is traced by TOM to the philosopher Chilo, recorded by Diogenes Laertius in Lives of the Philosophers and mentioned by Plutarch as a law of Solon (Lives, Solon, section 21). Luigi Berti's note to FS 9 mentions the law of Solon as cited by La Bruyère in Les Caractères (1688), p. 97 — a source for Poe of something in “Metzengerstein” (TOM 18), “Man of the Crowd” (506) and “Purloined Letter” (985) as well as a ref. in his 3/36 SLM review (H 8.258). Poe is correct about the absence of equivalents for the expression among English proverbs.

silence) d. See M 149 (and 3 with notes) for James Puckle's The Club (its primary, correct title) and his being a notary public, not a “moralist.” Some might consider the “ingenuity” questionable. The words of Puckle are these: “In speaking of the Dead fold up your discourse so handsomely as their virtues may be shown outwards, and their vices wrapt up in silence” (4th ed., 1723, p. 128).

In the Texas Univ. Library is a MS. portion of this article, described as “printer's copy” by Moldenhauer, Cata. 28-29, with “The simple negative” starting the para. Apparently the first four sentences were added (or sent) separately for printing. Otherwise only minor differences in accidentals are reported.

Fifty Suggestions 10

I have no doubt that the Fourierites honestly fancy “a nasty poet fit for nothing” to be the true translation of “poeta nascitur non fit.” [page 482:]


Note: For the much scorned Utopian socialist Charles Fourier see M 165 note c. Poe derided him in “Mellonta Tanta” (TOM 1293, 1306n 12) as “Furrier” and in Eureka (H 16.294); see also FS 28 and M 165 para. 2. Perhaps Poe associates him too with the Benthamites, noted for their alleged hostility to poetry. This is also the prosaic spirit of uncle Rumgudgeon in “Three Sundays” who gives this satiric translation for the sentence, “A poet is born, not made” (see TOM 652, 658n9). Although ascribed to Horace, the words come from Lucius Annaeus Florus, Roman historian and poet (fl. 125 A. D.), De Qualitate Vitae, Fragment 8: “Each year new consuls and proconsuls are made, but not every year is a king or poet born” (“Consules hunt quotannis et novi proconsules: Solus aut rex aut poeta non quotannis nascitur.”)

Fifty Suggestions 11

There surely cannot be “more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of” (oh, Andrew Jackson Davis!) “in your philosophy.”


Note: This item is chiefly interesting as showing Poe's contempt for the occult sciences for which Andrew Jackson Davis, spiritualist (1826-1910), was renowned in the 1840s. See also Poe's humorous address of his introductory letter to “Mellonta Tanta” to this “Poughkeepsie Seer” (TOM 1291, 1305n1). See Kendall B. Taft, AL, 1955, 26.562-63, on Poe's two refs. See also Davis's comments on Poe's visit to him in 11/45, in The Magic Staff (N. Y., 1857), pp. 299, 317-18. The quotation is from Hamlet, 1.5.166-67.

Fifty Suggestions 12

“It is only as the Bird of Paradise quits us in taking wing,” observes, or should observe, some poet, “that we obtain a full view of the beauty of its plumage;” and it is only as the politician is about being “turned out” that — like the snake of the Irish Chronicle when touched by St. Patrick — he “awakens to a sense of his situation.”


Note: Poe is not accurate about viewing the plumage of the Paradiseidae, a family of passerine birds of New Guinea and the nearby islands, since it is during the “dancing parties” before the females that 12 to 20 males display their brilliant plumes spread out above the wings (see Enc. Brit., 3.978-79). Up to 1760 the importation solely of the plumes and skin of the back, thus sold by natives, stripped of wings and [page 483:] feet, give rise to legends about their living always in the air, sustained by flower nectar and dew. Poe is punning on the verb “to turn out” in the senses of “expel” and also to “equip” or “dress elaborately.” The second meaning, with a slang or sporting significance, as in “get up” or “rig out,” dates from 1812 (OED) for both verb and “turn-out” as substantive. It may have been an association with Tammany Hall politicians that led Poe to think of his St. Patrick ref. In “Never Bet the Devil” Poe had used the same text, including “snakes and toads” in the 9/41 Graham's first version. St. Patrick, patron of Ireland (389-461), came back from Gaul after his conversion to proselytize in Ireland. Among the many miracles and tales told of him is one about his coaxing “the old serpent” into a small box, to test its comfortableness, whereupon he slammed it closed and cast it into the sea, thus ridding the land of all vermin.

Fifty Suggestions 13

Newspaper editors seem to have constitutions closely similar to those of the Deities in “Walhalla,” who cut each other to pieces every day, and yet got up perfectly sound and fresh every morning.


Note: Valhalla (the more common form of Poe's “Walhalla”) means, in old Norse, the Hall of the Slain. It was the vast hall, built by the giants, in which Odin (Wotan) received the souls of the slain heroes and led them in nightly feasts. They ate meal and the flesh of a boar which was made whole again by celestial magic for each new feast (Enc. Brit., Micropaedia ed., 1974, 10.338). It may have been a ref. to the boar rather than to the reborn “Deities” which Poe has vaguely in mind here. Poe's 5/12/49 tale “X-ing a Paragrab” is based on the malicious efforts of rival editors to “cut each other up” (TOM 1368-1375).

Fifty Suggestions 14

As far as I can comprehend the modern cant in favor of “unadulterated Saxon,” it is fast leading us to the language of that region where, as Addison has it, “they sell the best fish and speak the plainest English.”


Note: Poe may have had in mind Spenser's “Dan Chaucer, well of English undefiled” (Faerie Queene, 4.32). The ref. to Addison's place of plain English (i.e., Billingsgate, the fish market) appears also in his 2/42 Graham's review of Cornelius Mathews’ Wakondah; and in his 5/42 [page 484:] Graham's review of Hawthorne, he speaks of “unadulterated Saxon” in the Spectator (H 11. 106), but the locus in Addison's works has not been found. Poe, who tends toward a somewhat Latinate diction, would naturally oppose this simplifying movement.

Fifty Suggestions 15

The frightfully long money-pouches — “like the Cucumber called the Gigantic” — which have come in vogue among our belles — are not of Parisian origin, as many suppose, but are strictly indigenous here. The fact is, such a fashion would be quite out of place in Paris, where it is money only that women keep in a purse. The purse of an American lady, however, must be large enough to carry both her money and the soul of its owner.


Note: Poe's keen interest in women's fashions is shown in several tales, e.g., the dress of Suky Snobbs in “A Blackwood Article” (TOM 349; explicated by Pollin in Papers on Poe,1972, pp. 92-103); the dress of the female inmates at the dinner in “Tarr and Fether” (1007-8); and the dress of Mme. Lalande in “The Spectacles” (889-90). The quotation, from “Miss Kilmansegg and Her Precious Leg” by Thomas Hood, must have inspired Poe's article: “They ought to have purses as green and long / As the cucumber called the Gigantic” (11. 552-53). First appearing in the 9/1840 New Monthly Magazine, the poem was in Prose and Verse by Thomas Hood, Part I, published by Wiley and Putnam and reviewed by Poe in the 8/9/45 BJ (H 12.213-222), with the final three paras. devoted to high praise of this very poem (12.222). Poe's assurance about the purse-habits of Parisian ladies is based on no personal observation. But he was quite right about the extravagant sizes of the purses being worn by women in the late 1840s, as can be seen in The Connoisseur (London) 3/1914, 38.145-50, P. MacIver, “Nineteenth Century Purses”; and Vanda Foster, Bags and Purses (London, 1982).

Fifty Suggestions 16

I can see no objection to gentlemen “standing for Congress“provided they stand on one side — nor to their “running for Congress“if they are in very great hurry to get there — but it would be a blessing if some of them could be persuaded into sitting still, for Congress, after they arrive. [page 485:]


Note: Poe's sensitivity to language makes him remark upon the seemingly contradictory images in the two expressions, which he assumes to be peculiarly American. He is partially right about “to run for office” which is given by the OED as “orig. U. S.” when it means “to compete, stand as a candidate” with 1861 and 1870 citations (British, but in an American context). For this word Mathews (DA) gives citations of 1826 and Craigie (DAE) gives 1844, 1851. But the OED gives many citations, starting with 1205, for the root sense of “to compete, or take part in, a race (for a prize) ... also in fig. context.” He seems mistaken about the American origin of the other word, for “to stand for a constituency or for Parliament; to offer oneself for election ... ” (OED) is cited for 1676 with many instances to follow. Poe's misconception is, at least, shared by both lexicographers.

Fifty Suggestions 17

If Envy, as Cyprian has it, be “the moth of the soul,” whether shall we regard Content as its Scotch snuff or its camphor?


Note: This may come at first or second hand from Robert Burton (1577-1640), The Anatomy of Melancholy: “ ... as Cyprian describes emulation, it is a moth of the soul, a consumption, to make another man's happiness his misery, to torture, crucify, and execute himself, to eat his own heart. ... ” [Note: “Qualis est animi tinea, quae tabes pectoris, zelare in altero vel aliorum felicitatem suam facere miseriam, et velut quosdam pectori suo admovere carnifices, cogitationibus et sensibus suis adhibere tortores, qui se intestinis cruciatibus lacerent! ... ”] (Dent ed., 1932, of Anatomy of Melancholy, Part I, Sect. 2, Mem. 3, Subsection 8, 1.266, 471).

In the original of Cyprian, De zelo et livore, Ser. 2, this reads thus: “Qualis vero est animae tinea, quae cogitationum tabes, pectoris quanta rubigo, zelare in altero vel virtutem ejus vel felicitatem.” Poe's other (and direct) allusions to Burton are in the M Intro. — the “fresh talk” of the “anatomical Burton”; in a similar collective ref. in M 46; and an almost identical ref. in the 11/39 BGM review of the Canons of Good Breeding.

Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus (200-58 A. D.), son of wealthy Romans, possibly senatorial in rank, became bishop of Carthage where he was finally executed in the persecution of the Christians. Luigi Berti, in his note for this item in Marginalia, suggests a source in Horace, Satires (Sermones, 1.1.1-3): “Qui fit, Maecenas, ut nemo, quam sibi sortem I seu ratio dederit seu fors obiecerit, illa / contentus vivat, laudet diversa sequentis?” H. Wetmore Wells translates it thus: “How is it, Maecenas, that no one is satisfied with his lot in life, whether he chose it himself or [page 486:] whether it came to him by accident, but envies those whose lot is different?” (Complete works of Horace, ed. Casper J. Kraemer, 1936, p. 3). The peculiar structure of the clause beginning with “whether” masks at first the meaning of “Content” as “contentment” or “satisfaction” — basis for Berti's unlikely source — attribution. “Whether” can be disregarded.

Scotch snuff seems to be an Americanism, given by Craigie (DAE) as “finely ground snuff of a characteristic strength and pungency prepared from well dried tobacco” with citations for 1733, 1779, 1853. Its use here stems from its being used for fumigation as well as an inhalant. In Eureka, para. 15 appears: “They blinded themselves, too, with the ... Scotch snuff of detail.”

Fifty Suggestions 18

M———, having been “used up” in the “—— Review,” goes about town lauding his critic — as an epicure lauds the best London mustard — with the tears in his eyes.


Note: Poe's sly trick is to designate Cornelius Mathews by a blank or by “M———,” confident that his readers will guess the person, although at one time Poe admired him as editor of Arcturus and sponsor of American “nationality” in letters and a firm copyright law. For other animadversions by Poe on Mathews see MM 269, 270, 278, 281, 286, FS 31, 40, 46. One of the best evaluations of Mathews is in Donald Yannella's foreword, pp. v-xv, to Mathews’ The Career of Puffer Hopkins (rep, New York: Garrett Press, 1970). The term “used up” meant severely criticized as well as physically abused, as in Poe's tale “The Man That Was Used Up” (TOM 376 ff.) The joke about the mustard is repeated from “Never Bet the Devil” (TOM 626) in the 9141 Graham's. It came from James Puckle's The Club, article “The Rake,” item no. 272, and reads in the original: “None ever praised matrimony, but, as men do good mustard, with tears in their eyes” (1834 ed., pp. 56-57). See FS 9 for another Puckle allusion and the Index for several more in the Brevities.

Fifty Suggestions 19

Con tal que las costumbres de un autor sean Auras y castas,” says the Catholic Don Tomas de las Torres, in the Preface to his “Amatory Poems,” “importa muy poco que no sean igualmente severas sus obras:” meaning, in plain English, that, provided the personal morals of an author are pure, [page 487:] it matters little what those of his books are.

For so unprincipled an idea, Don Tomás, no doubt, is still having a hard time of it in Purgatory; and, by way of most pointedly manifesting their disgust at his philosophy on the topic in question, many modern theologians and divines are now busily squaring their conduct by his proposition exactly conversed.


Note: Poe uses the quotation at the start of “Never Bet the Devil” of 9141. TOM translates it thus: “As long as the habits of an author are pure and chaste, it matters very little if his works are less austere” (rather “equally austere”) in 631-32, noting that the disjunction between author and works in morals was strongly disputed at the time. Poe's drinking habits made him an object of much discussion in literary and temperance circles in the midcentury. We do not know the intermediary source of the quotation, coming from Cuentos en verso castellano, by Tomás Hermengildo de Las Torres (Perpignan, 1818; Madrid, 1820, 1821; Zaragoza, 1828; Valencia ?, 1830). In the Preface, addressed “to the reader” Tomas de las Torres (in the 1821 Madrid ed., at least), footnotes his observation with two lines said to be from the “poem of Angelica” [ca. 1800] by Adrea Maron, “in the frontispiece”: “Castrum esse decet pium poetam, / Ipsum: versiculos, nihil necesse est” (i.e., “It is fitting for the poet to be chaste and pious himself; as for his verses, there is no such need”). No bibliographic aids have furnished material on Maron, but surely Poe would have used this recherché information, had he seen a copy of the book — very rare in American libraries. Maron derived the idea from reading Latin texts, probably one of the epigrams of Marcus Valerius Martialis (40-104 A. D.), who lived on patronage and retired to a country house in his native Spain: “Lasciva est nobis pagina, vita proba est” (1.5) although it may have come from his imitator Decimus Magnus Ausonius (consul in 379, died 395), whose Idylls borrowed from Martial: “Lasciva si nobis pagina, vita nobis proba est” (No. 16) which means “Wanton is my page; my life is good” (Loeb Classics, tr. by W. C. A. Ker, p. 32). Berti, Marginalia, traces the idea to the Latin authors (p. 199). Poe seems to contradict this in his “Literati” sketch (1846) of Margaret Fuller: “The supposition that the book of an author is a thing apart from the author's self, is, I think, ill-founded” (H 15.81). Yet the full para. seems to dwell rather upon “spirit” and “talents” than upon “morals” which are represented only by the word “character.”

Fifty Suggestions 20

Children are never too tender to be whipped: — like tough beefsteaks, the more you beat them the more tender they become. [page 488:]


Note: Poe had used this previously in “Never Bet the Devil”: “Babies, like tough steaks, or the modern Greek olive trees, are invariably the better for beating“-taking it from “Sweepings from a Drawer” by W. Landor (i.e., H. B. Wallace) in BGM of 11/39 (5.236): “Some schoolmasters seem to think of their pupils as the modern Greeks do of their olive trees, that the more they are beaten the more they thrive” (TOM 622, 633n9). He is also said to have told an associated joke in a style that he indulged in his AWM aticle “Enigmatical and Conundrum-ical” of 12/18/39. Harold Child (born 1871), in the revived SLM of 8/1939,1.570, section of brief notes called “Presenting,” tells of a question put to him by Poe when Child's father was working on White's SLM : “Why is a young baby like a steam engine? — Because it too has a tender behind.” The OED records the railroad use of “tender” for railway car in 1825, making Poe's “companionability,” as Child presents it, at least possible.

Fifty Suggestions 21

Lucian, in describing the statue “with its surface of Parian marble and its interior filled with rags,” must have been looking with a prophetic eye at some of our great “moneyed institutions.”


Note: Here Poe is adapting a brief passage from “Man of the Crowd” that he originally borrowed from Lucian of Samosata (25-190 A. D.); describing women of the town: “The unequivocal beauty in the prime of her womanhood, putting one in mind of the statue in Lucian, with the surface of Parian marble, and the interior filled with filth” from Lucian's the Somnium (“The Dream” or “The Cock,” sect. 24; TOM 510, 516n7). Poe used it also in his 9/39 BGM rev. of Brougham's Historical Sketches (5.166-67; uncollected): Lord Brougham “must have an outward and visible spirit belying the invisible spirit within. He must be like the statue in Lucian ... rags.” For other refs. to this varied classical author in Poe's works see Pin 6, M 25; “Blackwood's Article” (36106); “Man of the Crowd” (516n7); “Murders” (570n8, this probably via H. B. Wallace's Stanley). In FS 21 Poe applies the “tag” to “institution,” probably bank buildings, often built in Greek revival styles, with pretentious facades of marble.

Fifty Suggestions 22

That poets (using the word comprehensively, as including artists in general) are a genus irritable, is well understood; but the why, seems not to be commonly seen. An artist is an artist only by dint of his exquisite [page 489:] sense of Beauty — a sense affording him rapturous enjoyment, but at the same time implying, or involving, an equally exquisite sense of Deformity or disproportion. Thus a wrong — an injustice — done a poet who is really a poet, excites him to a degree which, to ordinary apprehension, appears disproportionate with the wrong. Poets see injustice — never where it does not exist — but very often where the unpoetical see no injustice whatever. Thus the poetical irritability has no reference to “temper” in the vulgar sense, but merely to a more than usual clearsightedness in respect to Wrong: — this clear-sightedness being nothing more than a corollary from the vivid perception of Right — of justice — of proportion — in a word, of το καλον. But one thing is clear — that the man who is not “irritable,” (to the ordinary apprehension,) is no poet.


Note: The phrase that germinates the whole article is from Quintus Horatius Flaccus, Epistles, 2.2.102: “Multa fero, ut placem genus irritahile vatum” (“I bear many things, that I may appease the sensitive race of bards”). This is one of the many phrases of Horace to which Poe conventionally helped himself (see PD 46 for a dozen such refs. and also Index to the Brevities). Poe is too personally concerned with the injustices done poets to be strict about injustice as the contrary of “Beauty” to which the hypersensitive keenly object. Poe juggles with “right” and “proportion” by the end when he inserts “to kalon” as synonym for ‘justice” rather than “the beautiful” — a strained equivalence. Only rarely does Poe show awareness of “social injustice” in his works save for the publishers’ exploitation of authors (see E. Marchand, AL, 1934, 6.2843). For an earlier treatment of the poet's response to the grotesque see his 8/36 SLM review (H 9.94).

Fifty Suggestions 23

Let a man succeed ever so evidently — ever so demonstrably — in many different displays of genius, the envy of criticism will agree with the popular voice in denying him more than talent in any. Thus a poet who has achieved a great (by which I mean an effective) poem, should be cautious not to distinguish himself in any other walk of Letters. In especial — let him make no effort in Science — unless anonymously, or with the view of waiting patiently the judgment of posterity. Because universal or even versatile geniuses have rarely or never been known, therefore, thinks the world, none such can ever be. A “therefore” of this kind is, with the world, conclusive. But what is the fact, as taught us by analysis of mental power? Simply, that the highest genius — that the genius which all men instantaneously acknowledge as such — which acts upon individuals, as well as upon the mass, by a species of magnetism incomprehensible [page 490:] but irresistible and never resisted — that this genius which demonstrates itself in the simplest gesture — or even by the absence of all — this genius which speaks without a voice and flashes from the unopened eye — is but the result of generally large mental power existing in a state of absolute proportion — so that no one faculty has undue predominance. That factitious “genius” — that “genius” in the popular sense — which is but the manifestation of the abnormal predominance of some one faculty over all the others — and, of course, at the expense and to the detriment, of all the others — is a result of mental disease or rather, of organic malformation of mind: — it is this and nothing more. Not only will such “genius” fail, if turned aside from the path indicated by its predominant faculty; but, even when pursuing this path — when producing those works in which, certainly, it is best calculated to succeed — will give unmistakeable indications of unsoundness, in respect to general intellect. Hence, indeed, arises the just idea that

“Great wit to madness nearly is allied.”

I say “just idea;” for by “great wit,” in this case, the poet intends precisely the pseudo-genius to which I refer. The true genius, on the other hand, is necessarily, if not universal in its manifestations, at least capable of universality; and if, attempting all things, it succeeds in one rather better than in another, this is merely on account of a certain bias by which Taste leads it with more earnestness in the one direction than in the other. With equal zeal, it would succeed equally in all.

To sum up our results in respect to this very simple, but much vexata quæstio: —

What the world calls “genius” is the state of mental disease arising from the undue predominance of some one of the faculties. The works of such genius are never sound in themselves and, in especial, always betray the general mental insanity.

The proportion of the mental faculties, in a case where the general mental power is not inordinate, gives that result which we distinguish as talent: — and the talent is greater or less, first, as the general mental power is greater or less; and, secondly, as the proportion of the faculties is more or less absolute.

The proportion of the faculties, in a case where the mental power is inordinately great, gives that result which is the true genius (but which, on account of the proportion and seeming simplicity of its works, is seldom acknowledged to be so;) and the genius is greater or less, first, as the general mental power is more or less inordinately great; and, secondly, as the proportion of the faculties is more or less absolute.

An objection will be made: — that the greatest excess of mental power, however proportionate, does not seem to satisfy our idea of genius, unless we have, in addition, sensibility, passion, energy. The reply is, that the “absolute proportion” spoken of, when applied to inordinate [page 491:] mental power, gives, as a result, the appreciation of Beauty and horror of Deformity which we call sensibility, together with that intense vitality, which is implied when we speak of “Energy” or “Passion.”


Note: Poe has frequently commented on the distinction between talent and genius, in the Marginalia for example, q. v. via the items in the Index. He utilizes a comment by Helvetius, borrowed from Bulwer, in M 221 para. 4; the great question in the circles of the “philosopher” was the stimuli provided by “great” or intense motives to produce outstanding achievement, i.e., of “genius.” The consequent abnormality of behavior and of personality must often have troubled Poe; cf. “Eleonora” paras. 1-2 (TOM 638, 654n1), and especially M 247. The quotation is from Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel, 1.163 (“Great wits are sure to madness near allied”). For other refs. to Dryden see Pin 46, 96 and M90, as well as his 8/41 Graham's review of Quacks of Helicon (H 10.183); see also TOM 38n6, 461 (title note). See also Poems 137, 292, 480 for possible refs. and relationships.

Fifty Suggestions 24

“And Beauty draws us by a single hair.” — Capillary attraction, of course.


Note: This small item is derived from two sources, the first being Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock: “And Beauty draws us by a single hair” (2.38). Poe had appropriately cited the poem in his Drake-Halleck review of 4/36 in the SLM (H 8.299), and knew Pope's works well (cf. PD 74 for two dozen loci). The second source is a “Letter to the Broadway Journal” (not by Poe) in the 6/14/45 issue (1.373): “My Dear Journal, / You know my boy Bob! I mean that good double jointed fellow whose countenance is concealed in a matting of beard and whiskers. The same of whom somebody remarked that he seemed to place great confidence in capillary attraction.” Poe's work on the BJ ensured his knowledge of this material. Poe's science clearly defined the phrase as that attraction “whereby a liquid is drawn up or ascends through a hair-like tube” (OED, giving 1813 and 1837 as the first two citations). “Capillary” meaning “hair-like” or “of ... hair” comes from “capillus, hair.”

Fifty Suggestions 25

It is by no means clear, as regards the present revolutionary spirit of Europe, that it is a spirit which “moveth altogether if it move at all.” [492:] Fifty Suggestions FS 27-28 In Great Britain it may be kept quiet for half a century yet, by placing at the head of affairs an experienced medical man. He should keep his forefinger constantly on the pulse of the patient, and exhibit panem in gentle doses, with as much circenses as the stomach can be made to retain.

[Conclusion in our next.


Note: Poe's rare manifestation of awareness of the farflung, violent revolutionary movements of 1848 here implies a characteristic lack of sympathy since the Biblical language (although borrowed directly from Wordsworth) suggests the common angelic or celestial spirit, as in Judges 13.25: “And the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times in the camp of Dan. ... ” The quotation is roughly from “Resolution and Independence” (pub. 1807): “Motionless as a cloud the old Man stood, / That heareth not the loud winds when they call; / And moveth all together, if it move at all” (11. 75-77). His final ref. is probably derived from H. B. Wallace, Stanley: “Rome was the Roman Empire, and the want of ‘panem et Circenses,’ in the metropolis might destroy the government” (1.72). Wallace, of course, took the phrase for “bread and amusements” from Juvenal, Satires, 10.81.

(Concluded from page 319)

Fifty Suggestions 26

The taste manifested by our Transcendental poets, is to be treated “reverentially,” beyond doubt, as one of Mr. Emerson's friends suggests — for the fact is, it is Taste on her death-bed — Taste kicking in articulo mortis.


Note: The deprecation of Emerson and his circle by Poe is omniprevalent, q. v. in MM 188, 249. The metaphor employed by Poe here is also to be found in “Philosophy of Furniture” at para. 8 (TOM 498n6): “Turkey [carpeting] is taste in its dying agonies;” It occurs in Letter 6, 6/18/44, to the Columbia Spy (DG 65): Concerning homes, called “Pagodas,” on the harbor shore of New York City, Poe says “If these monstrosities appertain to taste, then it is taste in its dying agonies.” Poe was also aware of the pamphlet publication of “Valdemar” in London in 1846, called “Mesmerismin articulo mortis; he mentions it to Duyckinck and others (Ostrom Letters 275-76; H 17.268 and 284), and in M 200.

Fifty Suggestions 27

I should not say, of Taglioni, exactly that she dances, but that she laughs with her arms and legs, and that if she takes vengeance on her present oppressors, she will be amply justified by the lex Talionis.


Note: Poe is motivated not only by his sense of humor but also by a genuine love of the dance in this article, although Maria Taglioni (1804-84) never came to America (she retired in 1847) and he could not have seen her as a boy in London. Yet her international reputation as the “first” dancer of Europe was well known to him, as he shows in M 85 (q. v.) taken from his review of Memoirs ... of Madame Malibran of 5/40 in BGM (H 10.91). In the early version of “Loss of Breath” she was listed along with other famous dancers (TOM 79), all of whom were borrowed from Vivian Grey by B. Disraeli. The important fact is that Poe loved dance on the stage and included many allusions to it in his works, as a comprehensive study shows (see Pollin, “Poe and the Dance” in SAR 1980, pp. 169-82). His “Berenice” makes a kindred point, that “of Mademoiselle Salle it has been well said, “Que tous ses pas étaient des sentiments“’ (TOM 216), or “that all her steps were ideas.” His immediate joke rests on the “lex Talionis” or principle of “retaliation, especially in the Mosaic, Roman, and other systems of law” (OED), with its pun on “legs Taglioni.” The idea of “retaliation” or “mistreatment” came from her retirement a few years earlier (1847) from any dancing activity and also a rather notorious divorce case and love-affair scandal. This is mentioned even earlier in an item that Poe, undoubtedly, as the “mechanical paragraphist” on the Evening Mirror, inserted into the 11/2/44 issue (I, no. 24, p. 1, col. 5), uncollected as yet. The beginning is germane: “It is satisfactory to know that, for the insult offered by a foreign court to Everett on the score of repudiation, we may not only have the satisfaction of lex talionis (query — legs Taglioni's) — but that the original Goddess of the Dance comes to us, leaving behind a repudiated husband. The following account of her application for a divorce is from the Gazette des Tribunaux: etc.” No accounts of Taglioni give evidence for “oppressors” in 1849, save perhaps for continuing shocked public opinion.

Fifty Suggestions 28

The world is infested, just now, by a new sect of philosophers, who have not yet suspected themselves of forming a sect, and who, consequently, have adopted no name.(a) They are the Believers in every thing [page 494:] Odd. Their High Priest in the East, is Charles Fourier — in the West, Horace Greeley; and high priests they are to some purpose. The only common bond among the sect, is Credulity: — let us call it Insanity at once, and be done with it.(b) Ask any one of them why he believes this or that, and, if he be conscientious, (ignorant people usually are,) he will make you very much such a reply as Talleyrand made when asked why he believed in the Bible. “I believe in it first,” said he, “because I am Bishop of Autun; and, secondly, because I know nothing about it at all.”(c) What these philosphers call “argument,” is a way they have “de nier ce qui est et d’ expliquer ce qui n‘est pas.”* (d)

* Nouvelle Héoise.


name) a. Poe chooses his word for “inhabited,” i.e. “infested,” deliberately. It was one of his favorites as can be seen in “Rodman”: “infested with Indian tribes” (530/18, also 553/34) and in Tales (TOM 490/34): “infested by cats” and (509/8): “infested” by pickpockets. For the generally Fourierite community of Brook Farm Phalanx (the Fourier term sometimes used) Poe coined “Crazyites” (see M 159 end).

with it) b. For Charles Fourier see M 165 d and refs. given. For Horace Greeley (1811-72), earnest and assiduous editor of the Tribune (which evaluated Poe's works justly), egalitarian, anti-slavery writer, and temperance man, see FS 47 and the “Autography” sketch of 1/42 in Graham's (H 15.250-51). Greeley long kept the check representing the unpaid $50 loan that he made to Poe to help purchase the BJ.

at all) c. The statement sounds like the witty, irreverent Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754-1838), statesman and Bishop of Autun from 1789-91, but I have not found it in memoirs or his writings. It does not sound like Poe's invention. Probably using Poe as source, Paul Valéry translates this passage in his “Rapport a l‘Académie Française sur les prix de vertu.” (12/20/1934). Similarly, H. L. Mencken, A New Dictionary of Quotations (New York, 1942), p.101, ascribes it to Talleyrand, without source. For other Poe refs. see H 10.194, 11.53, and 12.64 (the last being also on his proud ignorance of the Bible).

n‘est pas) d. This had been borrowed by Poe for the end of “Murders” without acknowledging its source in Bulwer Lytton's Pelham (ch. 24): “that manie commune which he [Rousseau in La Nouvelle Héloïse] imputes to other philosophes, de nier ... n‘est.” TOM, unaware of this source, glosses it as from Part VI, Letter xi of ... Héloïse, “giving Plato's explanation of ghostly apparitions ... ” meaning “To deny what is, and explain what is not” (TOM 574n41). [page 495:]

Fifty Suggestions 29

The goddess Laverna, who is a head without a body, could not do better, perhaps, than make advances to “La Jeune France,” which, for some years to come at least, must otherwise remain a body without a head.


Note: It is significant that this item, like its predecessor, can be traced to the end of “Murders” and also to a passage in Bulwer Lytton's Pelham, this item to an early one (ch. 3). Poe says of the Prefect that “his wisdom ... is all head and no body, like the pictures of the Goddess Laverna, — or, at best, all head and shoulders, like a codfish” (TOM 568, 574n40). TOM cites Horace for Laverna as goddess of thieves, shown as a bodiless head (though without source indicated). From Pelham Poe derived something: “Davison was ... short and fat, and made without any neck at all — only head and shoulders, like a codfish” (1877 N. Y. ed., p. 42).

The French phrase Poe probably derived from Robert Walsh's translation of Loménie's Sketches (Phila., 1841), p. 164, which he had reviewed in the 4/41 Graham's. The passage concerns Berryer's candidacy for a chair in the French Academy, opposed by Victor Hugo and Casimir Bonjour. Eventually, by their manoeuvring, the place went to a M. Flourens, a physician “who was finally successful to the infinite horror of la jeune France.”

Fifty Suggestions 30

Mr. A———— is frequently spoken of as “one of our most industrious writers;” and, in fact, when we consider how much he has written, we perceive, at once, that he must have been industrious, or he could never (like an honest woman as he is) have so thoroughly succeeded in keeping himself from being “talked about.”


Note: We must conjecture whom Poe is designating by “Mr. A———” from Poe's orientation, hints in this article, and those eligible in the field of American writers. Timothy Shay Arthur (1809) is eminently qualified, as editor first of various Baltimore journals and then of others in Philadelphia and New York. He contributed to almost every major and dozens of minorjournals and was indefatigable, especially in producing temperance tracts and moralistic stories, collected into volumes from 1842 on. He was also disfavored by Poe. His greatest success, Ten Nights in a Barroom, came in 1854, after Poe's death (1849) but was [page 496:] prefigured by his fiction of the ‘30s and ‘40s. L. Mott (Am. Magazines I) indicates over 100 volumes at his death, many of magazine writings (499; for numerous contributions and ed. posts see 353, 381, 585, 672, 743, 745, 770). Poe, in his 3/42 Graham's review of Charles O‘Malley, deprecates him: “For one Dickens there are five million ... Arthurs” (H 11.90) and ends his 12/41 Graham's “Autography” sketch, after deprecating his vulgar style with “He has also written much for our weekly papers and the ‘Lady's Book.“’ (H 15.240-41). In his letter of 7/12/41 to Snodgrass, he wrote: “I never had much opinion of Arthur. What little merit he has is negative” (Ostrom 175). Moreover, Poe's joke about “an honest woman” is especially applicable to an editor of and contributor to woman's magazines orientated strongly toward the female-led temperance movement. This simple joke has a rather complicated provenance, one phase told by Robert M. Walsh, whose Sketches, translated from Leonard Lomenie and reviewed by Poe in 1841, reads thus: “A prize had been offered for the best elogium on Vauvenargues, by the Academy of Aix, ... which, to make use of Voltaire's witicism [sic], has always succeeded, like an honest woman, in keeping itself from being talked about” (p. 28). Poe used almost these very words about W. E. Charming in his Graham's review of 8/43 (H 11.74). As for the mixup of sexes, after the Lyceum lecture with its disastrous repercussions in the Boston press, especially the hostile Transcript, Poe writes in the BJ of 12/6/45, 2.359 (uncollected), “Editorial Miscellany,” about Miss Walters or “Mr. Edmund Burke, the editress.”

Fifty Suggestions 31

H———— calls his verse a “poem,” very much as Francis the First bestowed the title, mes déserts, upon his snug little deer-park at Fontainebleau.


Note: The identity of “H———” seems clear when we consider that this item is a very slight rewriting of Poe's penultimate sentence of his review of Cornelius Mathews’ Wakondah in the 2/42 Graham's (H 11.38): “Mr. Mathews, you have clearly mistaken your vocation, and your effusion as little deserves the title of poem, (oh sacred name!) as did the rocks of the royal forest of Fontainebleau that of mes déserts bestowed upon them by Francis the First.” The blank plus “H” probably stands for “Mathews” with the change of letters for various possible reasons, such as the large number of derogations of “M” or “Mathews” already indited in the Marginalia and Fifty Suggestions. It is the metaphor that interests Poe, by this time, rather than the reproof to Mathews, who has already received so much at his hands. However, Henry Hirst, no longer [page 497:] his close friend, may be meant. The ref. to the chateau is verified by Louis Dimier, Fontainebleau (rep. of 1921; Paris, 1967): “C‘est là qu’i1 se plut davantage et qu’il fit ses plus longs et ses plus fréquents séjours. ... Il disait ‘qu’il allait chez lui‘; et nous avons de ses lettres datees ainsi: ‘de nos délicieux déserts de Fontainebleau,’ desert signifiant retraite et solitude, tant il avait d‘affection pour ce site, pour sa forêt et pour les alentours” (p. 29).

Fifty Suggestions 32

K————, the publisher, trying to be critical, talks about books pretty much as a washerwoman would about Niagara falls or a poulterer about a phœnix.


Note: One suspects that it is rather the illustrations than the main subject that justifies this entry; hence, the identity of “K” is of far less consequence than masking letters in other entries. “Kelt” of the firm of Saxon and Kelt may be meant here, since he must refer either to a firm in New York to whom he could have spoken or whose publicity material he had seen. Saxon and Kelt published cheap books in the city, one of which Poe or his friend Thomas English (in 1845) reviewed in the Aristidean (11/45), 1.404: one of the “Library of Select Literature” in imitation of the series by Wiley and Putnam. The review is of Professor John Wilson's Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life.

Concerning the comparisons, note Poe's coinage of the term “washerwomanish” in Eureka (H 16.293). Niagara Falls had considerable allure for Poe, although he never saw it personally, and it appears in four creative works: “Maelström” (580/34), “The Elk” (862/8), “Hans Pfaall” (387/21), and “Tarr and Fether” (1017/33). The “poulterer” and “phoenix” joke comes from a book of anecdotes about Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Sheridaniana, or its equivalent. (London, 1826), pp. 227-28. In the background is the matter of the burning of Drury Lane theatre and the rebuilding (1809-12), with the reopening celebrated by the recitation of the winning “Address” (Byron's) and, indirectly, by the publication of the Rejected Addresses, being parodies by Horace and James Smith of the unsuccessful poems (as they were imagined to be) — a book which led to Poe's coinage of “tintinnabulation” and to other effects (q. v. Pollin, PN, 6/1970, 3.8-10). One of the “addresses” had been sent in by Samuel Whitbread (1758-1815), son of a wealthy brewer, but high in liberal Whig circles, friend of Fox, and very active in the rebuilding. Most of the poems alluded to the myth of the Phoenix. Sheridan, at a dinner party given by the banker Samuel Rogers, discussed the entries and asserted that Whitbread had made more of the bird than any of the [page 498:] others. He entered into particulars, and described the wings, beak, tail, etc. “In short, it was a Poulterer's description of a Phoenix!”

Fifty Suggestions 33

The ingenuity of critical malice would often be laughable but for the disgust which, even in the most perverted spirits, injustice never fails to excite. A common trick is that of decrying, impliedly, the higher, by insisting upon the lower, merits of an author. Macaulay, for example, deeply feeling how much critical acumen is enforced by cautious attention to the mere “rhetoric” which is its vehicle, has at length become the best of modern rhetoricians. His brother reviewers — anonymous, of course, and likely to remain so forever — extol “the acumen of Carlyle, the analysis of Schlegel, and the style of Macaulay.”(a) Bancroft is a philosophical historian; but no amount of philosophy has yet taught him to despise a minute accuracy in point of fact. His brother historians talk of “the grace of Prescott, the erudition of Gibbon, and the pains-taking precision of Bancroft.”(b) Tennyson, perceiving how vividly an imaginative effect is aided, now and then, by a certain quaintness judiciously introduced, brings this latter, at times, in support of his most glorious and most delicate imagination: — whereupon his brother poets hasten to laud the imagination of Mr. Somebody, whom nobody imagined to have any, “and the somewhat affected quaintness of Tennyson.”(c) — Let the noblest poet add to his other excellences — if he dares — that of faultless versification and scrupulous attention to grammar. He is damned at once. His rivals have it in their power to discourse of “A. the true poet, and B. the versifier and disciple of Lindley Murray.”


Macaulay) a. Normally Poe tends to derogate Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-59), eminent lawyer, orator, parliamentarian, poet, historian and reviewer (of Ed. Rev.), q. v. in MM 61, 92, 181, 221, SM 1, CS 11 and FS 50. Here he fords more merit in him. As for Thomas Carlyle, whom he associated with Emerson as a vague-minded Transcendentalist — Poe devoted numerous articles to mockery of him, q. v. in MM 13, 135, 165, 188, 255, 289. By the time of this article Poe's attitude toward the Schlegels and especially Friedrich A. Schlegel had become rather more hostile than favorable, despite the numerous borrowings of words and ideas throughout his career. See, for example, Pin 122, MM 181, 209, SP 7 and the Index.

Bancroft) b. William H. Prescott (1796-1859), eminent, almost blind historian, especially of Spain and the Spanish Conquest, was greatly honored for his accuracy and thoroughness (see H 13.15, 13.143). Edward Gibbon (1737-94), author of the Decline and Fall ... was often deprecated [page 499:] by Poe (see M 29, LST). George Bancroft (1800-91), statesman, diplomat, ardent democrat, was renowned for his U. S. histories of 1834, ‘37, and ‘40.

Tennyson) c. For Poe's ranking Tennyson as the greatest modern poet see M 44. For a fuller discussion of his “quaintness” see his passage in his review of W. E. Channing in the 8/43 Graham's (H 11.176-77). Lindley Murray (1745-1826), transferring his residence from the U. S. to England, became “father of English grammar” through his systematized school texts. Poe deprecates him in the “Rationale of Verse” (H 15.212; also see 11.225) but accepts his authority in H 8.20.

Fifty Suggestions 34

That a cause leads to an effect, is scarcely more certain than that, so far as Morals are concerned, a repetition of effect tends to the generation of cause. Herein lies the principle of what we so vaguely term “Habit.”

Fifty Suggestions 35

With the exception of Tennyson's “Locksley Hall,” I have never read a poem combining so much of the fiercest passion with so much of the most delicate imagination, as the “Lady Geraldine's Courtship” of Miss Barrett. I am forced to admit, however, that the latter work is a palpable imitation of the former, which it surpasses in thesis as much as it falls below it in a certain calm energy, lustrous and indomitable — such as we might imagine in a broad river of molten gold.


Note: Poe derives this para. very closely from a passage in the second part of his review of E. B. Barrett's Drama of Exile and other poems in the 1/11/45 BJ (1.19; H 12.16). The few changes are minor save that one indicates Poe's ignoring his distinction between “fancy” and “imagination” while another shows clearly that “thesis” to him meant “plot.” In the collations that follow the BJ text precedes the slash: we have never perused / I ... read; ethereal fancy / delicate imagination; We are forced / I am forced; in plot or rather in thesis / in thesis; in artistical management, and a certain / in a certain.

It is surely significant that in this 1849 set of observations Poe is still singling out for praise this poem which was a cardinal source of major elements in “The Raven” (Poems 356-57). For other laudatory refs. to “Locksley Hall” see his 8/43 review of Channing (H 11.176) and [page 500:] of Horne's Orion in the 3/44 Graham's (H 11.255). See FS 33 for his high ranking of Tennyson and over two dozen loci in PD 90.

Fifty Suggestions 36

What has become of the inferior planet which Decuppis, about nine years ago, declared he saw traversing the disc of the sun?


Note: The partial source of this is undoubtedly the first para. of “A Chapter of Science and Art” in the 4/40 BGM, 6.193, under the joint editorship of William Burton and Poe. It has not as yet been determined whether the various compilations in BGM called “Omniana” and “a Chapter on Science and Art” (April, May, June, July 1840) were prepared by Burton, Poe, or someone else. The source-para. is the first one of the article, with the introductory caption “Conjectural Discovery of a New Planet.” The text states that new “glasses” (telescope) invented by Count Decuppis enable us to look without harm directly at the sun, where he saw a black spot which described an arc of seven minutes repeatedly. All the signs clearly show it to be an undiscovered “planet,” a twelfth world to be added to our system. It will surely receive the name of Decuppis. Berti, in the note to his translation of the Marginalia (p. 208), traces this to the Comptes Rendus Hebdomadaires des Séances de l‘Académie des Sciences, July-December 1839 (Paris), IX, 809: “M. Decuppis annonce que le 2 octobre, en continuant des observations qu’il faisait sur les taches du soleil, il a vu une tache noire, parfaitement ronde, d‘un mouvement rapide, de manière à ce qu’elle a dû traverser le disque dans environ six heures. M. Decuppis pense que les apparences qu’il a observees ne peuvent s‘expliquer qu’en admettant 1‘existence d‘une nouvelle planète.” (Berti mistakenly copied the month as December, rendering it too late to be the basis of the April 1840 BGM item, but the New York copy corrects this.) It appears that Poe's intermediary source added the title to the discoverer, as well as details about the arc.

Fifty Suggestions 37

“Ignorance is bliss” — but, that the bliss be real, the ignorance must be so profound as not to suspect itself ignorant. With this understanding, Boileau's line may be read thus:

“Le plus fou toujours est le plus satisfait,”

— “toujours” in place of “souvent.” [page 501:]


Note: Poe pieces this together, first from Gray's “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College”: “No more; — where ignorance is bliss, / ‘Tis folly to be wise” (11. 100-01 — ending). Using Gray to explicate Boileau is ingenious: Satires, IV (“Les Folies Humaines”): “ ... Je trouve en effet / Que le plus fou souvent est le plus satisfait” (11. 127-28). Regis Messac, Les Influences françaises ... , p. 19, regards Poe as ignorant of French rules of versification regarding his quotation as “Boileau's line” since an alexandrine needs twelve syllables and this lacks the first. He rightly suspects it to be a second-hand citation. The source must be Pelham by Bulwer Lytton, Bk. 1, ch. 24 — from which he took so much else, although there it is assigned to an anonymous “French essayist” whose correct name Poe must have subsequently ascertained. Note that in Pin 160 he seems unaware of the identity of Boileau and Despréaux. For other refs. to Boileau see Pin 87, 97, MM 92, 139A.

Fifty Suggestions 38

Bryant and Street are both, essentially, descriptive poets; and descriptive poetry, even in its happiest manifestation, is not of the highest order. But the distinction between Bryant and Street is very broad. While the former, in reproducing the sensible images of Nature, reproduces the sentiments with which he regards them, the latter gives us the images and nothing beyond. He never forces us to feel what we feel he must have felt.


Note: For Alfred B. Street (1811-81) as a descriptive poet, see M 167; also for loci of other allusions in Poe's works. See PD 14 for about three dozen passages, articles, and refs. to William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), by the mid-20s acknowledged to be America's first poet — correct in style, positive in outlook, perceptive and graphic in his limited range of nature — appreciation and human feeling, as Poe says. Poe tried to evaluate his work justly (see H 9.268-305, 10.85-91, and, especially, the 4/46 Godey's rev., H 13.125-41), despite his great influence as editor of the New York Post for over fifty years, exerted in causes such as the anti-slavery movement. This item encapsulates Poe's balanced judgment, and that of posterity.

Fifty Suggestions 39

In lauding Beauty, Genius merely evinces a filial affection. To Genius Beauty gives life — reaping often a reward in Immortality. [page 502:]


Note: This is closely derived from a series by William Landor (pseudonym of H. B. Wallace) entitled “Meets for Memory” in the 10/40 BGM, 7.202, item no. 39: “Beauty gives life to genius; genius gives immortality to beauty.” See the Index for the large number of Brevities originating in “Landor's” works.

Fifty Suggestions 40

And this is the “American Drama” of —— ! Well! — that “Conscience which makes cowards of us all” will permit me to say, in praise of the performance, only that it is not quite so bad as I expected it to be. But then I always expect too much.


Note: This probably refers to Cornelius Mathews’ Witchcraft; or, The Martyrs of Salem, a blank-verse tragedy, which was successful in Philadelphia before its presentation on 5117147 at the Bowery Theatre for a very limited run (see Odell, Annals, 5.273). Poe's statement is less likely to apply to Mathews’ subsequent drama, Jacob Leisler; The Patriot Hero, or New York in 1690, which ran for a week at the Bowery, from 5/4/48, and was never published. The quotation is from Hamlet, 3.1.83: “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.”

Fifty Suggestions 41

What we feel to be Fancy will be found fanciful still, whatever be the theme which engages it. No subject exalts it into Imagination. When Moore is termed “a fanciful poet,” the epithet is applied with precision. He is. He is fanciful in “Lalla Rookh,” and had he written the “Inferno,” in the “Inferno” he would have contrived to be still fanciful and nothing beyond.


Note: This is taken, almost verbatim from the sixth para. (sentences 3-6) of the sketch of N. P. Willis, “American Prose Writers. No. 2” in the 1/18/45 BJ (H 12.38). That section, in turn, was an adaptation of his review of Moore's Alciphron in the 1/40 BGM (H 10.62-66), where Poe tells us that he is applying “principles” and views expressed earlier in his Drake-Halleck review of 4/36 in the SLM. One interesting change is substitution of “imaginative” for “ideal” and another is his prior discussion of “mystic” and “suggestive” for the “imaginative” — a trace of which shows in his citing the “Inferno.” Poe derived his distinction between “fancy” and “imagination” from Coleridge, as he admits, although he tries to set up a difference often (see last para. of M 291). Poe's view [page 503:] of Thomas Moore (1779-1852) was a bit ambiguous. His versatility, lyric skill, and fascinating circle of friends charmed Poe, who “plundered” his works for ideas, phrases, forms and styles (see Pollin, ESQ 1972, 18.166-73, for example, and PD 65 for over two dozen loci). Poe's parting gift, 9/26/49, to Dr. Carter, was a copy of Moore's Irish Melodies.

Fifty Suggestions 42

When we speak of “a suspicious man,” we may mean either one who suspects, or one to be suspected. Our language needs either the adjective “suspectful,” or the adjective “suspectable.”


Note: This is another instance of Poe's sensitivity to diction and constant calling for vocabulary-expansion, which his more than 1,000 coinages demonstrate (see PCW and pp. 16-17 of Intro.). He did not have, at hand, historical dictionaries to show him that his proposed adjectives already existed. “Suspectful” dating from 1570 was used by Florio in 1603 to mean “exciting or deserving suspicion” (and 1641 by Milton). “Suspectable” meaning “that may or should be suspected; open to suspicion” was used by Richardson in 1748 (further citations for 1761, 1802).

Fifty Suggestions 43

“To love,” says Spenser, “is

To fawn, to crouch, to wait, to ride, to run,

To speed, to give, to want, to be undone.”

The philosophy, here, might be rendered more profound, by the mere omission of a comma. We all know the willing blindness — the voluntary madness of Love. We express this in thus punctuating the last line:

To speed, to give — to want to be undone.

It is a case, in short, where we gain a point by omitting it.


Note: Poe takes the quotation from Disraeli's CL , but chooses to misinterpret the significance which is made utterly clear in the text, apparently to make a point about love and to repunctuate the couplet. In the CL article, “Poverty of the Learned” (1835 ed., 1.28; 1857, 1.51; 1865, 1.85-86). Disraeli first mentions Malone's ref. to Spenser's small pension and his querulous verses: “Full little knowest thou, that hast not try‘d / What Hell it is, in suing long to bide.” Disraeli then remarks: “To [page 504:] lose good days-to waste long nights, and, as he feelingly exclaims, “To fawn etc!” These are 11. 895-96 and 905-906 from Spenser's Prosopopoia, or Mother Hubberds Tale. Of course, Poe knew that it was not love but the lack of patronage to which Spenser was alluding, but he wished to show the effect of removing the comma after “want.” Naively, W. G. Simms, in the 8/1857 issue of Russell's Magazine (Charleston), 1.472, protested against Poe's misinterpretation. Despite several refs. (several at second-hand) there is little evidence that Poe had read anything but sections of the Faerie Queen, which gave him three refs. to Una and the lion (see PD under Spenser and the title).

Fifty Suggestions 44

Miss Edgeworth seems to have had only an approximate comprehension of “Fashion,” for she says:

“If it was the fashion to burn me, and I at the stake, I hardly know ten persons of my acquaintance who would refuse to throw on a faggot.”

There are many who, in such a case, would “refuse to throw on a faggot” — for fear of smothering out the fire.


Note: The probable source for this seemingly strange article can be found in the weekly magazine the Corsair (New York) of 3/7/40,1.827, a journal founded in 1839 by Willis and Timothy O. Porter avowedly to “borrow” material from other English-language magazines in the absence of copyright restrictions. This remark is ascribed to a “Frenchwoman of the last century” and Poe could scarcely have failed to note it in the journal of his friend Willis, which also contained a review of his Tales on 12/21/39, 1.653 (see Pollin, PS, 1972, 5.56). The connection with Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849), novelist, educationist, friend of the highest literati in Great Britain, is a bit tenuous. Among her many sketches and novels, some dealing with Irish customs and varied town life, were “a first series of Tales of Fashionable Life” (1809) and “a second series of Tales of Fashionable Life” (1812) including the ever popular Absentee (referring of course to British landlordism in Ireland). Poe refers to her “touches of the truest humor” and her sense of the custom of the country (H 8.261, 9.203, 15.109). It must be his notion of the connection of her name with “fashionable novels” that leads to this punning article — although Maria was an inappropriate subject.

Fifty Suggestions 45

I am beginning to think with Horsely [sic] — that “the People have nothing to do with the laws but to obey them.”


Note: This observation on democracy should be compared with FS 25 and, perhaps, 28. Poe had used this in “Three Sundays” of 11/27/41. Samuel Horsley (not Horsely), Bishop of St. Asaph, later of St. David's and then of Rochester (1733-1806), prominent mathematician and theologist, noted for his controversy with Joseph Priestley over the Incarnation, said this during a debate in the House of Lords on the Treasonable Practices Bill, 11/11/95, in the heyday of anti-Jacobin repressiveness — perhaps paralleling in Poe's mind a like revolutionary danger in 1849 (see TOM 659n11).

Fifty Suggestions 46

“It is not fair to review my book without reading it,” says Mr. M———— talking at the critics, and, as usual, expecting impossibilities. The man who is clever enough to write such a work, is clever enough to read it, no doubt; but we should not look for so much talent in the world at large. Mr. M———— will not imagine that I mean to blame him. The book alone is in fault, after all. The fact is, that “es lässt sich nicht lesen“it will not permit itself to be read. Being a hobby of Mr. M————'s, and brimful of spirit, it will let nobody mount it but Mr. M————.


Note: For other depreciations of Cornelius Mathews (1817-89) see FS 40, MM 269, 270, 278, 280, 281, 286 and also PD 61 for almost a dozen passages and articles on him. (Griswold, i.e., Poe, prints Mathews in the 1850 ed.) This FS item of 1849 could refer to no recent book by Mathews, and his 1848 play Jacob Leisler is still unpublished. Witchcraft dated from 1846 and the romance Big Abel from 1845, with other books being either earlier or subsequent to Poe's death. This must be a carryover from Poe's refs. to Witchcraft (q. v. in Marginalia), gratuitously jesting about a former friend alienated for no known reason. The German in both this item and also at the end of “Man of the Crowd” (BGM, 7.270), with the same text, wrongly shows “er lässt” instead of “es lässt.” Harrison (14.185) and also Kuno Schuhmann in his ed. of Poe Werke, 2.1126n, silently correct this error, unlike TOM — deliberately — in his edition, (506, 515n). It means: “It does not permit itself to be read.” The humor at the end relies upon the use of hobby for “hobby horse” as well as a favorite activity or diversion. [page 506:]

Fifty Suggestions 47

It is only to teach his children Geography, that G———— wears a boot the picture of Italy upon the map.


Note: Horace Greeley was an important figure in Poe's life, as founder and editor of the New York Tribune, etc. (see FS 28). This ref. is clear from the caricature in the BJ of 2/15/45, 1.105, where the boot feature is plain. Greeley's dress was notoriously nondescript.

Fifty Suggestions 48

In his great Dictionary, Webster seems to have had an idea of being more English than the English — “plus Arabe qu’en Arabie.”*

* Count Anthony Hamilton.


Note: Poe knew and generally admired the efforts of Noah Webster (1758-1843), educator, journal-editor, grammarian, spelling reformer and editor, and lexicographer (q. v. in H 9.106 and 160; 10.11 and 188). He advocated an objective study of the facts of American and English speech and stressed the original or primary meanings of words as basic, in his Compendious Dictionary (1806; much revised) — perhaps these views being the basis for Poe's cryptic remark; it is probably humorous irony, however. His quotation refers to Claude Barbin, publisher in Paris of the Arabian Nights, mentioned in Count Anthony Hamilton's (1646-1720) tale “Les Quatre Facardins” at the beginning of which occur these verses (Oeuvres, in 3 vols. Paris, 1812; 2259): “Ensuite vinrent de Syrie / Volumes de contes sans fin, / Où l‘on avait mis à dessein / L‘orientale albégorie, / Les énigmes et le génie / Du talmudiste et du rabbin; / Et ce bon goût de leur patrie / Qui, loin de se perdre en chemin, / Parut, sortant de chez Barbin, / Plus Arabe qu’en Arabie.”

Fifty Suggestions 49

That there were once “seven wise men” is by no means, strictly speaking, an historical fact; and I am rather inclined to rank the idea among the Kabbala.


Note: Poe seems to ignore the tradition which assigns the phrase “The wise men of Greece” or “The seven sages” to seven specific persons who flourished in the 6th century B. C.: Bias of Briene, Chilo of Sparta, Celobulus of Lindos, Periander of Corinth, Pitacus of Mitylene, Solon [page 507:] of Athens, and Thales of Miletus. Hence his equivalence to the “Kabbala” (his allowed and preferred spelling of the Cabbala), which he calls the “type of the mysterious or incredible” in “Mummy” (TOM 1190,1199n26). For his use of the term in “Imp” and “Scheherazade” and elsewhere see M 31.

Fifty Suggestions 50

Painting their faces to look like Macaulay, some of our critics manage to resemble him, at length, as a Masaccian does a Raffäellian Virgin; and, except that the former is feebler and thinner than the other — suggesting the idea of its being the ghost of the other — not one connoisseur in ten can perceive any difference. But then, unhappily, even the street lazzaroni can feel the distinction.


Note: In order to deprecate Thomas Babington Macaulay, Poe here uses an art-comparison which has previously stood him in good stead and which was filched from the Frederic Shoberl's translation of Victor Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris in its earlier form (1831 ed.; rev. ed., 1832), in Bentley's “Standard Novels” (London, 1833), pirated by Carey and Lea (Phila., 1834; 2 vols.), specifically, 2.42, Book 7, ch. 6 (later shifted to Book 8, ch. 6). The French reads: “Elle ressemblait à ce qu’elle avait été comme une Vierge de Masaccio ressemble à une Vierge de Raphael: plus faible, plus mince, plus maigre.” In Shoberl this becomes: “She resembled what she had been, as a Virgin of Masaccio resembles a Virgin of Raphaël's — feebler, thinner, more attenuated.” Poe erroneously adds an extra “s” to his adjectival form of Masaccio in both his uses of this comparison. This one is a brief description of the gypsy girl Esmeralda after her condemnation as a witch by the “holy tribunal” of Paris and her imprisonment. Looking “ghostly” on the tumbril, she is going to her projected execution from which Quasimodo will save her (Shoberl terms his translation The Hunchback of Notre-Dame). The details of condemnation, torture, and imprisonment were useful to Poe in his “Pit and Pendulum” (explicated in DP, 1-37, 2 chapters on “Hugo and Poe”). Poe first borrowed it for Letter 6, to the Columbia Spy, of 6/18/44 (Doings of Gotham 68), comparing Longfellow (“Raphael”) and Landor, the pseudonym of H. B. Wallace (“Masaccio”), as alleged authors of a recent sketch in Graham's of N. P. Willis. Here Poe expands the comparison, adding the ref. to “lazzaroni” or worthless fellows, often begging and cheating — presumably to disparage precise, intellectual connoisseurs who lack discriminative feelings. For Poe's mingled respect and scorn for Macaulay see MM 61, 92, 181, 221, FS 30, SM 1.







[S:0 - BRP2B, 1985] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe (B. R. Pollin) (Fifty Suggestions)