From Hart and Leininger's Oxford Companion to American Literature:EDGAR ALLAN POE (1809-1849), son of itinerant actors, was born in Boston. His father died the following year, and may have deserted his wife before that time, for she continued to support herself, taking the child with her from place to place until her death at Richmond, VA. (1811), when she left penniless Edgar and two other children: William Henry Leonard Poe (1808-31), who became a poet and may have collaborated with his brother; and Rosalie Poe (1810-74). Edgar was taken into the home of a Richmond merchant, John Allan. Although never legally adopted, for a long while he used his foster father's name, employing it as a middle name after 1824. He went to England (1815-20) with the Allans, and there attended school, as described in the semi-autobiographical story "William Wilson." After their return to Richmond, Mr. Allan, who had inherited a great fortune, was neither faithful to his wife nor sympathetic to this stepson, whose favoring of Mrs. Allan caused him to counter with remarks besmirching the character of Edgar and hinting at the possible illegitimacy of Rosalie. The relationship was further strained during Poe's attendance at the University of Virginia (1826), when Allan would give him no money, and he resorted unsuccessfully to gambling.
Allan insisted on Poe's preparation for a legal career, and after a violent quarrel the youth went to Boston, where he published Tamerlane (1827), issued anonymously at his own expense, which found no public. Under an assumed name and an incorrect age, he entered the U.S. army (1827) and was sent to Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, the setting for his later stories "The Gold-Bug" and "The Balloon Hoax." Mrs. Allan's deathbed plea caused a cool reconciliation with Allan, who aided Poe in obtaining an appointment to West Point and sent him a small sum to live on meanwhile in Baltimore, where he stayed with his brother and his aunt, Mrs. Maria Clemm, while arranging for the publication of Al Aaraaf (1829), which contained the sonnet "To Science" and "Tamerlane." Admitted to West Point (1830), he soon set about by gross neglect of duty to get himself dismissed (1831), since the reason for attendance, the desire to reinstate himself with Allan, had already been lost.
During a short stay in New York, he published Poems by Edgar A. Poe (1831), containing early versions of "Israfel," "To Helen," and "The City in the Sea," and then went on to live with Mrs. Clemm in Baltimore (1831-35), where he began to publish stories in magazines. He first attracted attention with "MS Found in a Bottle," which won a contest and brought him to the attention of J. P. Kennedy, who got him an editorial position on the Southern Literary Messenger, although he was discharged because of his drinking. At Baltimore he obtained a license (1835) to marry his cousin, Mrs. Clemm's daughter, Virginia, aged 13, and mah have married her before the public ceremony (1836). Reemployed by the Messenger, he moved with Mrs. Clemm and Virginia to Richmond, where, before he was finally discharged, he had published the unfinished tragedy Politian, 83 reviews, 6 poems, 4 essays, and 3 short stories, and greatly increased the magazine's circulation.
He moved his family to New York (1837-38), where he did hackwork and published The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, then going to Philadelphia, where as co-editor of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine (1839-40) he contributed "The Fall of the House of Usher," containing the previously published "Haunted Palace"; "William Wilson"; "The Journal of Julius Rodman"; "Morella"; and other works; and published Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque(1840), his first collection, which included "Berenice"; "Ligeia," containing "The Conqueror Worm"; "The Assignation"; "The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaaal"; and other stories. Leaving Burton, he made plans for his own magazine, which led to an acquaintance with T. H. Chivers, whose similar poetry caused attacks and counterattacks of plagiarism after Poe's death. Poe was literary editor of Graham's Magazine (1841-42), to which he contributed"The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "A Descent into the Maelström," "The Masque of the Red Death," and other works, including some acute criticism which heightened his reputation. To the same magazine he later contributed "The Imp of the Perverse" (1845) and "The Philosophy of Composition" (1846). He came to know R. W. Griswold, who followed him as an editor and bitterly attacked him after his death.
In 1842-43 he published "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt" in a New York magazine, and won a prize in a Philadelphia newspaper for "The Gold-Bug," but even this did not help him, since he had wasted opportunities for further publication in Philadelphia. In New York (1844), he wrote "The Raven," became associated with the New-York Mirror, and as literary critic (1844-45) conducted his war there with Longfellow, whom he accused of plagiarism. These attacks he continued after becoming proprietor of the Broadway Journal (1845), where he also printed"The Pit and the Pendulum," "Eleonora," and "The Premature Burial," and reprinted "The Tell-Tale Heart," and other works. His eighth book, Tales (1845), reprinted previous works selected by E. A. Duyckinck, and included "The Black Cat" and "The Purloined Letter." The Raven and Other Poems appeared the same year. Next associated with Godey's Lady's Book, Poe published "The Cask of Amontillado" and his articles on "The Literati of New York City," whose harsh criticism of T.D. English prompted an answer, to which Poe replied with a successful libel suit.
Lacking regular employment, he with his wife and Mrs. Clemm nearly starved in their Fordham home, and Virginia died of tuberculosis during the winter. Although he published"Ulalume" and "The Domain of Arnheim," and was at work on "The Bells" and Eureka, he was now more than ever in a thoroughly abnormal condition of body and mind, for which he attempted to find solace in the company of a Mrs. Shew, the poet Sarah Whitman, and the Mrs. Richmond addressed in "To Annie." Torn betwen the love of the latter two, he attempted suicide. His erratic mind, depressed in personal affairs, nevertheless showed extreme exaltation in the lecture Eureka, in which he attempted to establish an all-embracing theory of cosmogony. Upon his return to Richmond (1849), where he wrote "Annabel Lee," he made a vigorous attempt to end his addiction to liquor and became engaged to Mrs. Shelton, a former neighbor of the Allans, with whom he had had an early affair. On his way north to bring Mrs. Clemm to the wedding, he stopped in Baltimore, where five days afterward he was discovered in a delirious condition near a saloon that had been used for a voting place. It has been supposed that he was captured in a drunken condition by a political gang, which used him for the then common practice of repeating votes. Four days later he died, and was buried in Baltimore beside his wife.
There have been strongly divergent evaluations of Poe's literary significance, from Emerson's dismissal of him as "the jingle man" and Lowell's "three-fifths genius and two-fifths sheer fudge" to Yeats's declaration, "always and for all lands a great lyric poet." The difference of opinion is at heart directed at his criticism, for the poetry consistently exemplifies the theories set forth in "The Philosophy of Composition," "The Rationale of Verse," and "The Poetic Principle," in which he indicated his conception of poetic unity to be one of mood or emotion, and especially emphasized the beauty of melancholy. This romantic attitude has led to the criticism that his poetry is no more than a sustained tone, entirely dominated by its atmosphere. His reputation is also grounded on his use of the short story, which he preferred to the novel on the same basis that he preferred the short poem to the long. The stories may be said to fall into two categories, those of horror, set in a crepuscular world, and those of raciocination, which set the standard for the modern detective story and conform to the critical theories expounded in Eureka. Although Poe was strongly influenced by many authors—e.g. Tennyson in his poetry, Coleridge in his criticism, and C. B. Brown in his fiction—he himself proved a source of influence on such Americans as Bierce and Hart Crane, and such Englishmen as Rossetti, Swinburne, Dowson, and Stevenson, besides having a profound effect on the French symbolists.
Tamerlane and Other Poems, first collection by Poe, anonymously published in Boston (1827). The title piece is a narrative poem, revised in later editions, which shows the strong influence of Byron and purports to be the dying confession of the Asiatic conqueror to a strange friar, mainly concerned with memories of passionate love.
To Science, sonnet by Poe, published as a prologue to Al Aaraaf in Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems (1829). The poet apostrophizes Science as one whose peering eyes alter all things, as a destroyer of beauty, preying upon the heart of its lover, and as a "Vulture, whose wings are dull realities." Poe developed the theme of the conflict of scientific thought and poetic feeling in his prose, but later, in Eureka, considered that the beauty of poetry depended on its representing a scientific concept of an ordered universe.
Al Aaraaf, allegorical poem by Poe, published in Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems(1829) and revised in later printings. With the sonnet "To Science" as "prologue," the poem is arranged in two parts, composed of octosyllabic groups, heroic couplets, and songs of two- and three-stress lines.
Al-Aaraaf in Mohammedan mythology is a sort of limbo, but in the present allegory it is the brilliant star, briefly observed by Tycho Brahe, which the poet imagines to be the birthplace of the "Idea of Beauty." To this haven of ideal loveliness is carried the earth-born youth Angelo, but his worship is removed from the realm of the ideal by his passion for the maiden Ianthe. Because of their passion they do not hear the summons sent them by the presiding spirit Nesace, through her agent Ligeia, and they fall to perdition:
. . . for Heaven to them no hope imparts
Who hear not for the beating of their hearts.
Who hear not for the beating of their hearts.
Israfel, poem by Poe, published inPoems (1831) and several times revised in later editions. It is prefaced by an altered quotation from the Koran: "And the angel Israfel, whose heart-strings are a lute, and who has the sweetest voice of all God's creatures." In eight stanzas of great metrical variety, ranging from four- to two-stress lines, the poem contrasts the ideal dwelling place of the angel with the poet's own "world of sweets and sours," and concludes that if they were to change places
He might not sing so wildly well
A mortal melody,
While a bolder note than this might swell
From my lyre within the sky.
A mortal melody,
While a bolder note than this might swell
From my lyre within the sky.
The Assignation, a story by Poe, published as "The Visionary" in Godey's Lady's Book (1834) and under its present title in Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840). It contains the poem "To One in Paradise."
Berenice, tale by Poe, published in the Southern Literary Messenger (1835) and reprinted inTales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840).
Egaeus, glomy and unhealthy, grows up with his cousin Berenice, who is "agile . . . overflowing with energy" until she contracts a form of epilepsy that causes frequent trances. The youth's mind becomes diseased, and although he never loved Berenice while she was normal, he now madly proposes marriage. As the wedding approaches, he sees her as she is, pale and shrunken, but her white teeth fascinate him, and he feels insanely certain that to possess them would cure his own malady. When she is stricken with epilepsy and entombed as dead, Egaeus, unconscious of what he does, draws her teeth.He returns to the library, and there a servants makes him aware of what he has done, telling him that Berenice has not been dead but in a trance.
Morella, story by Poe, published in 1835 and reprinted in Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840).
Morella, a student of the German mystics, is a woman of extraordinary learning and mental power. Her husband is devoted to her, and acknowledges her intelelctual superiority, but she realizes that he does not love her. When she declines in health, he is repelled by her melancholy beauty. She seems resigned, but at last tells him that she is dying and yet shall live, that "her whom in life thou didst abhor, in death thou shalt adore." She dies in childbirth, leaving a daughter who is loved by the lonely father, even though he recognizes her increadsing resemblance to his dead wife. He neglects to name the child, but when she is 14 decides to have her baptized. At the font, a perverse impulse causes him to utter the name Morella, at which she falls dead, saying "I am here!" Distracted, the father bears her corpse to the tomb, where he finds no trace of the first Morella.
Politian, a Tragedy, unfinished blank-verse drama by Poe, of which selected scenes were published in the Southern Literary Messenger (1835-36). The work remained in manuscript until 1923, when it appeared in its entirety in a scholarly edition arranged by T. O. Mabbott. "The Coliseum" (1833) was incorporated in the text by Poe. Politian is based on the Kentucky Tragedy, but the scene is 16th-century Rome.
Castiglione, son of the Duke Di Brolio, seduces his father's orphan ward Lalage. When he becomes engaged to his cousin Alessandra, Lalage swears that she will be avenged. Politian, earl of Leicester, comes to Rome from England, falls in love with Lalage, and accepts her demand that he kill Castiglione. Irresolute, he postpones the act and goes to the Coliseum to meditate. There he is joined by Lalage, who reminds him that Castiglione's marriage is about to take place, and Politian departs to fulfill his promise.
The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall, story by Poe, published in the Southern Literary Messenger (June 1835) and collected in Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque(1840).
Five years after the disappearance of Hans Pfaall from Rotterdam a balloon of odd shape and structure came over the city and from it a strange little person dropped a letter describing in pseudoscientific detail Pfaall's own ballon ascension to the moon on a 19-day voyage that began on April 1 of an unnamed year. In a concluding Note the author declares the "sketchy trifle" is a hoax and links it to the Moon Hoax of Richard A. Locke.
Moon Hoax, result of an article contributed to the New York Sun (Aug. 1835) by a reporter, Richard Adams Locke (1800-1871), who pretended to reveal a discovery by Sir John Herschel that men and animals existed on the moon. The revelations, supposedly reprinted from the actually defunct Edinburgh Journal of Science,were so clever as greatly to increast the Sun's circulation cause a delegation from Yale to ask to see the original article, and produce pamphlet reprintes in England and on the Continent. Poe, who was a friend of Locke and described him in The Literari, said that the hoax anticipated most of this "The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall" and caused him to leave that tale unfinished, although he published it and later published his "Balloon Hoax" in the Sun itself in 1844.
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, of Nantucket, novelette by Poe, published in 1838. Like "The Journal of Julius Rodman," it is an account of exploration and adventure, heightened by fictional additions, but based on fact. It is extensively paraphrased from Benjamin Morrell's Narrative of Four Voyages to the South Seas and Pacific (1832) and a manual of seamanship, and owes its origin to a "Report of the Committee on Naval Affairs" (1836), concerning the expedition proposed by J.N. Reynolds, with whom Poe was acquainted. In the novelette, the fictitious Pym recounts his experiences as a passenger on the Grampus, which sailed from Nantucket for the South Seas in June 1827. Mutiny, shipwreck, and "horrible sufferings" are followed by a rescue and further sensational adventures in the Antarctic Ocean and on Pacific islands.
Ligeia, tale by Poe published in 1838 and reprinted in Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque(1840). The poem "The Conqueror Worm" was not included in the tale until 1845.
An aristocratic young man marries Ligeia, a woman of strange, dark beauty, and great learning. They are deeply in love, and share an interest in the occult, until a wasting illness triumphs over Ligeia's passionate will to live, and she dies. In melancholy grief, her husband leaves his lonely home on the Rhine to purchase an English abbey, where he grows mentally deranged under the influence of opium. He marries fair-haired Lady Rowena Trevanion, although they are not in love, and Rowena soon dies in a strange manner. Her husband watches by the bier and sees signs of returning life in the body, but considers these to be hallucinations. At las she rises to her feet and loosens the cerements from her head so that masses of long black hair stream forth. When she opens her eyes, he realizes that the lost Ligeia's will to live has triumphed, for she has assumed what was formerly the body of Rowena.
The Conqueror Worm, poem by Poe, published in The Raven and Other Poems (1845), and later included in "Ligeia." It consists of five eight-line stanzas, rhymed ababcbcb, the meter being free through most frequently iambic and anapaestic. The final lines convey the subject:
... the play is the tragedy, "Man,"
And its hero, the Conqueror Worm.
And its hero, the Conqueror Worm.
The Fall of the House of Usher, story by Poe, published in 1839, and reprinted in Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840). It contains the poem "The Haunted Palace."
A childhood companion of Roderick Usher, who has not seen him for many years, is summoned to the gloomy House of Usher to comfort his sick friend. The decayed mansion stands on the edge of a tarn, and is fungus-grown and dreary. Roderick and his twin Madeline are the only surviving members of the family, and both suffer serious physical and nervous maladies. Roderick entertains his friend with curious musical and poetic improvisations, indicating his morbid tastes by his choice of reading. Madeline, in a cataleptic trance, is thought to be dead, and her body is placed in the family vault. During a strom, Roderick is overcome by a severe nervous agitation, and his friend reads aloud from a medieval romance, whose horrifying episodes coincide with strange sounds from outside the room. Finally Madeline appears, enshrouded, and she and her brother fall dead together. The friend rushes from the house, and, as he looks back in the moonlight, sees the whole House of Usher split asunder and sink into the tarn.
The Haunted Palace, poem by Poe, published in the Baltimore Museum (1839) and as one of the hero's "rhymed verbal improvisations" in "The Fall of the House of Usher." The six stanzas (rhymed ababcdcd) depict in allegory the progress of insanity within the phantom-haunted "palace" of a decaying mind.
William Wilson, a story by Poe, published in 1839 and collected in Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840). The description of school life in England is partly autobiographical.
The central figure is a willful, passionate youth, who at Dr. Bransby's boarding school leads all his companions except one, a boy of his own age and appearence who bears the same name of William Wilson. This double maintains an easy superiority, which frightens Wilson, and haunts him by constant patronage and protection, noticed only by Wilson himself, whose sense of persecution increases until he flees from the school. He goes to Eton and Oxford, and then travels about Europe, following a career of extravagant indulgence, and becoming degenerate and vicious.At critical times his double invariably appears to warn him or destroy his power over others. Finally at Rome, when the double appears to prevent his planned seduciton of the Duchess Di Broglio, Wilson is infuriated, engages the other in a sword fight, and murders him. As the double lies dying, he tells Wilson, "You have conquered . . . Yet henceforward art thou also dead . . . In me didst thou exist—and, in my death, see by this image, which is thine own, how utterly thou hast murdered thyself."
Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, first collection of stories by Poe, published in two volumes in December 1839, dated 1840. The title was suggested by an essay by Sir Walter Scott, and the collection included 25 stories, among them "MS. Found in a Bottle," "The Assignation," "Berenice," "Morella," "Ligeia," "The Fall of the House of Usher," "William Wilson," and "The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall."
The Journal of Julius Rodman, fictional travel narrative by Poe, published anonymously inBurton Gentleman's Magazine (1840). It purports to be an account of "the first passage across the Rocky Mountains of North America ever achieved by civilized man," as accomplished in 1792 by an English emigrant, Julius Rodman, with several companions, and described in a diary discovered by his heirs. The character of Rodman and the dates are fictitious, but the adventures and descriptions are based on fact, being largely paraphrased from Irving'sAstoria and the accounts of Lewis and Clark and Sir Alexander Mackenzie.
A Descent into the Maelström, story by Poe, published in Graham's Magazine (1841) and reprinted in Prose Tales (1843).
A Norwegian sailor and his brother are trapped in their fishing boat when a hurricane draws it into the fearful Moskoe-ström, a whirlpool that periodically forms and subsides. Whirled about the inner verge of the gulf, they face death, and the elder brother becomes insane. The other sees that of the many objects in the grasp of the whirlpool, small cylindrical ones are least likely to be destroyed, and, lashing himself to a cask, he jumps into the sea. When the Moskoe-ström subsides, he floats to safety and is rescued by fellow fishermen. They do not recognize him or believe his story, for his hair has turned white and his expression is completely altered.
The Murders in the Rue Morgue, story by Poe, published in 1841 and collected in the Prose Tales of Edgar A. Poe (1843). It is his first tale of ratiocination and in it he is considered to have created the genre of the detective story.
The narrator lives in Paris with his friend C. Auguste Dupin, an eccentric genius of extraordinary analytic powers. They read an account of the murders of a Mme L'Espanaye and her daughter Camille in their fourth-story apartment in the Rue Morgue. The police are puzzled by the crime, for its brutal manner indicates that the murder possessed superhuman strength and agility; his voice, overheard by neighbours, was grotesque and unintelligible, and they can discover no motive. Dupin undertakes to solve the mystery as an exercise in ratiocination. After examining the evidence and visiting the scene of the murders to find new clues, he deduces the fact that the criminal is an ape. An advertisement bring to Dupin's apartment a sailor who confesses that an orangutan, which he brought to Paris to sell, escaped and committed the murders. The police release a former suspect, and the ape is recaptured and sold to the Jardin des Plantes.
Eleonora, story by Poe, in The Gift (1842). This brief romance tells of a youth reared with his cousin Eleonora in the beautiful Valley of the Many-Colored Grass. They fall in love, but she dies after he pledges never to wed "any daughter of Earth." Grieving, he goes to a strange city to serve at the gay court of the king, where he falls in love with and weds "the seraph Ermengarde." One night he hears a "familiar and sweet voice" absolve him of his vow "for reasons which shall be made known to thee in Heaven."
The Masque of the Red Death, story by Poe, published in Graham's Magazine (1842).
In a land devastated by a horrible plague, the "Red Death," Prince Prospero determines to preserve himself and his friends, and removes to a secluded castle, where, with 1000 knights and ladies, he spends several months in extravagantly gay pursuits. At a masquerade in the imperial suite, when the courtiers appear in masks and fantastic costumes, a terrifying corpse-like figure joins them, garbed as the Red Death. Attempting to stab him, the Prince dies; when others seize the apparition, it is discovered to have no tangible body. They realize that this is the Red Death itself, and, as midnight strikes, they die: "and Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all."
The Mystery of Marie Rogêt, detective story by Poe, published in 1842-43 as a sequel to "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and reprinted in Tales (1845). The principal details are based on the actual New York murder case of Mary Cecilia Rogers.
Marie Rogêt, a Parisian beauty of uncertain reputation, leaves her mother's home, saying she intends to spend the day with an aunt, but is not seen again. Four days later, her corpse is recovered from the Seine. The Prefect of Police offers a reward to C. Auguste Dupin, scholarly amateur detective, for a solution to the puzzle. One of the girl's admirers, St. Eustache, is proved innocent after his suicide, and by a process of ratiocination Dupin shows that another, Beauvais, cannot be guilty. The newspapers have hinted that the corpse may not be that of Marie, but Dupin refutes this possibility. He sets aside other suggestions, also by logical proof, and decides that the murder must have been committed by a secret lover, who would have thrown the body into the river from a boat, and then cast the boat adrift after reaching shore. Dupin's proposal that the boeat be found and examined for clues is followed by the successful solution of the mystery.
The Pit and the Pendulum, tale by Poe, published in The Gift (1843).
A prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition at Toledo descirbes his horrible tortures. Sick from long suffering, he faints when the death sentence is pronounced; upon recovering consciousness, he finds himself on the stone floor of a dark dungeon. Exploring the cell, he is saved from plunging into a deep pit when he accidentally trips and falls. He sleeps, and awakes to discover that he is now strapped to a wooden framework, while a great pendulum swings slowly back and forth overhead, its end being a steel crescent sharpened to razor edge. The menacing blade gradually descends, and rats swarm about his highly seasoned food and over his body. As the pendulum reaches him, the rats gnaw his bonds, from which he frees himself to find the cell's metal walls are heated and are slowly closing in. Just as he gives way to an agony of terror, the city is captured by French soldiers, and the hand of General Lasalle stays him from tumbling into the pit.
The Rationale of Verse, essay by Poe, published as "Notes on English Verse" in The Pioneer (1843), and in its final form under the present title in the Southern Literary Messenger(1848). It is the most complete expression of Poe's theories of poetic technique, although critics, indicating its inconsistencies, asssert that he did not follow his own dicta.
Refuting the notion that prosody is concerned with the regular "alternation of long and short syllables," Poe establishes a distinction between "natural" and "unnatural" metrical units. "The natural long syllables are those encumbered . . . with [difficult] consonants . . . Accentedsyllables are of course always long, but, where unencumbered with consonants, must be classed among the unnaturally long." He upholds a "principle of equality," according to which each verse foot must be pronounced in the same time as every other foot in the line, regardless of the number of its syllables. This applies only to single lines, although to be effective a stanza should contain lines arranged in strict pattern; and rhyme, alliteration, and the use of refrains should be governed by the same rule. Since duration is the standard by which this "equality" is to be judged, there should be no "blending" or substitution of one metrical foot for another. Contractions or elisions should be avoided, although additional unstressed syllables may be used if they can be pronounced rapidly. The "caesura" (in this usage, a "variable foot," occurring at the end or middle of a line, and consisting of one long syllable) is discussed as being one of the most important of metrical feet. The essay concludes with a passage, especially referring to Longfellow's poems, which denies the possibility of the successful use of Greek hexameters in English, because of the "natural" pronunciation peculiar to English words.
The Gold-Bug, tale by Poe, published as a prize story in the Philadelphia Dollar Magazine(1843) and reprinted in Tales (1845). The cryptograph on which the story depends is a development of the interest that prompted Poe's essay "Cryptography" (Graham's Magazine,1841).
William Legrand, an impoverished Southern gentleman, lives in seclusion on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, his only companion being the black servant Jupiter. One day, when they capture a rare golden scarb beetle, markes with a sort of death's -head, they come upon a curious piece of parchment, which when heated proves to contain a certain cipher and a drawing of a death's head. Legrand ingenously decodes the cipher, which directs them to the buried treasure of Captain Kidd. With the aid of a friend and the superstitious Jupiter, both of whom he deliberately mystifies, Legrand locates an indicated tree, in which a skull is nailed, and, by dropping the beetle through an eye of the skull, they are able to establish a line on the position of the cache. Besides several skeletons, they exhume a fortune in old coins and jewels with which Legrand reestablishes himself in society.
The Tell-Tale Heart, story by Poe, published in The Pioneer (1843). It has been considered the most influential of Poe's stories in the later development of stream-of-consciousness fiction.
A victim of a nervous disease is overcome by homicidal mania and murders an innocent old man in whose house he lives. He confuses the ticking of the old man's watch with an excited heartbeat, and although he dismembers the body he neglects to remove the watch when he buries the pieces beneath the floor. The old man's dying shriek has been overheard, and tree police officers come to investigate. They discover nothing, and the murderer claims that the old man is absent in the country, but when they remain to question him he hears a loud rhythmic sound that he believes to be the beating of the buried heart. This so distracts his diseased mind that he suspects the officers know the truth and are merely trying is patience, and in an insane fit he confesses his crime.
The Balloon-Hoax, story by Poe, published in the New York Sun (April 13, 1844) in the guise of an actual article of news. According to the author, the "jeu d'esprit . . . subserved the prupose of creating indigestible aliment for the quidnuncs during the few hours intervening between a couple of the Charleston mails." It is an account of a fictitious crossing of the Atlantic (April 6-9) by eight men in "Mr. Monck Mason's Flying Machine . . . the Steering Balloon 'Victoria'." The balloon, inflated with coal gas, is supposed to have started from a place in north Wales, headed out over the ocean, and then been caught in a powerful gale that lasted two days, driving the craft at great speed until it was landed on Sullivan's Island, S.C.
The Imp of the Perverse, story by Poe, published in Graham's Magazine (1845). A condemned murderer explains his confession, which followed years of safe concealment, in terms of a perverse impulse, and states that perversity is an unrecognized major motive for men's actions.
The Purloined Letter, detective story by Poe, published in his Tales (1845).
The prefect of the Paris police visits C. Auguste Dupin, scholarly amateur detective, for advice on a baffling case concerning a cabinet minister who has gaoined power over, and consequently practiced blackmail upon, a royal lady from whom he has stolen a letter that she cannot have made public. After serveral months of elaborate search, the prefect concludes that the letter is not on the minister's person or premises. Dupin soon finds the letter, explaining later that the police seek only obscure hiding places such as would be avoided by the acute minister. Dupin, therefore, visited him openly, looked in the most obvious places, and found the letter, turned inside out and disguised in an exposed card rack. Diverting the minister the next day by means of an arranged street disturbance, he substituted a facsimile and took the purloined letter with him.
The Black Cat, story, by Poe, published in 1843, collected in Tales (1845).
A condemned murderer tells of his crime and its discovery. For hears he cherished a pet black cat, Pluto, until intemperate drinking led him to destroy one of its eyes during a fit of malevolence. The cat recovered, but its master's perverse mood continued, and he tied it by the neck to a tree. The same night, his home was destroyed by fire, except for a newly plastered wall that bore the image of a cat with a noose about its neck. Now poverty-stricken and degenerate, them man was haunted by this image, but nevertheless brought home a stray one-eyed cat, which had a single white mark on its black breast, resembling a gallows. He came to hate the animal, and one day attempted to kill it with an axe; murdering his wife when she interfered, he placed her body in a cellar recess that he concealed with plaster. When police came to make a search, they found nothing until a ghastly scream from the walled recess caused them to open it and discover the cat seated upon the head of the corpse.
The Raven, poem by Poe, the title piece of a volume (1845), was several times revised in later publications. To Poe's account of writing it, in "The Philosophy of Composition," must be added the influence upon the meter of Mrs. Browning's "Lady Geraldine's Courtship" and Chivers's "Isadore." The poem consists of 18 six-line stanzas, the first five lines of each being in trochaic octameter, and the sixth line trochaic tetrameter. The rhythm is varied by frequent syncopation, caused by effects of double rhyme and alliteration. The rhyme pattern is abcbbb, in which the b rhymes are based on the constant refrain "Nevermore," a word that merged Poe's favorite theme of grief occasioned by the death of a beautiful woman (in this case "Lenore"), the distinctive theme of despair at the denial of personal immortality, and the sonorous sound of the o and v in the refrain itself.
A weary student is visited in his room, one stormy midnight, by a raven who can speak the single word, "Nevermore." Tortured by grief over the loss of his beloved, the student questions the bird concerning the possibility of meeting her in another world. He is driven to wilder demands by the repetition of the fatal word, until the raven becomes an irremovable symbol of his dark doubts and frustrated longing.
The Cask of Amontillado, tale by Poe, published in Godey's Lady's Book (1846).
During the excitement of the carnival in an Italian city, Montresor determines to avenge "the thousand injuries" of Fortunato, a connoisseur of wines who has offended him. He finds Fortunato drunk, but eager to taste the choice Amontillado that Montresor claims to have stored in his underground vaults. Although he has a cough, made worse by the damp air and clining nitre of the tunnels through which they go, he refuses to turn back when he hears that his rival, Luchresi, may be allowed to try the wine. At last they reach a crypt at the end of a passage, where Montresor shackles the stupefied Fortunato and proceeds to wall him up with stone and mortar. Fortunato cries for help, but there is no one to hear, and Montresor completes his work, the last sound from his victim being a faint jingling of bells on his carnival motley.
The Philosophy of Composition, critical essay by Poe, published in Graham's Magazine(1846). It purports to describe the author's usual procedure in composing poetry and is mainly devoted to an analysis of "The Raven" as an example of this procedure. Among the famous dicta announced in the essay are: "If any literary work is too long to be read at one sitting, we must be content to dispense with the immensely important effect derivable from unity of impression . . . What we term a long poem is, in fact, merely a succession of brief ones"; "Beauty is the sole legitimate province of the poem"; "Beauty . . . in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears. Melancholy is thus the most legitimate of all poetical tones"; "The death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world." Poe further discusses his principles of versification, use of a refrain, diction, and imagery, and the primary importance of the climax ("The Raven," stanza 16), which was written first so that every effect in the poem should lead in its direction.
The Literati of New York City, critical review by Poe of the Knickerbocker Group and other New York authors, published in Godey's Lady's Book (1846). Among the 38 authors are Halleck (the third principal contemporary poet, "a somewhat better position than that to which on absolute grounds he is entitled"); C. P. Cranch ("unusual vivacity of fancy and dexterity of expression . . . one of the least intolerable of the school of Boston transcendentalists"); Caroline Stansbury Kirkland ("has a province of her own, and in that province has few equals"); Epes Sargent ("One of the most prominent members of a very extensive American family—the men of industry, talent and tact"); E.A. Duyckinck ("the excessively tasteful"); Anna Mowatt ("She evinces more feeling than ideality"); Lewis G. Clark ("He is noticeable for nothing in the world except for the markedness by which he is noticeable for nothing"); C.F. Hoffman ("a true idealist . . . one sensitively alive to beauty in every development"); Margaret Fuller ("tainted with the affectation of the transcendentalists, but brimful of the poetic sentiment"); and N.P. Willis ("As a poet he is not entitled to as high a rank as he may justly claim for his prose"). Poe's unfavourable comments on T.D. English, whom he satirizes as "Thomas Dunn Brown," provoked a scurrilous reply by English, to which Poe retaliated with a successful libel suit.
Ulalume, poem by Poe, published in the American Whig Review (Dec. 1847). This lyrical poem, called by Poe a ballad, expresses the writer's grief over the death of his beloved "Ulalume," and in its first magazine publication had ten stanzas ranging from the nine lines of the first stanza to the 13 of the penultimate, which in later publications became the final stanza. The Meter is anapestic trimeter. It tells of the lover's unwitting return to the tomb where he had buried his Ulalume:
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber
In the misty mid region of Weir—
It wass down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.
In the misty mid region of Weir—
It wass down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.
The Domain of Arnheim, descriptive tale by Poe, published in 1847. It incorporates "The Landscape Garden" (1842), and "Landor's Cottage" is a "pendant."
A fabulously beautiful estate is created by Ellison, a millionaire enthusiast of landscape gardening. After spending years in searching for the perfect site, he chooses Arnheim, and carries out a huge plan for disposing the waterways, landscape, and vegetation so as to make it the ideal setting for the "semi-Gothic, semi-Saracenic" architecture of his elaborate home.
Landor's Cottage, descriptive story by Poe, published in 1849 as a "pendant" to "The Domain of Arnheim." It is a detailed description of the New York country estate of a Mr. Landor, a simple but exquisite creation of architecture and landscape gardening, and a less elaborate counterpart of the rich domain described in the earlier story.
The Poetic Principle, lecture by Poe, delivered in various cities (1848-49) and posthumously published in The Union Magazine (1850). Partly an elocutionary vehicle, it contains short poems by Willis, Longfellow, Bryant, Shelely, Thomas Moore, Hood, Byron, and Tennyson.
Developing the theories already stated in "The Philosophy of Composition" and other places, Poe declares that "a long poem does not exist . . . . A poem deserves its title only inasmuch as it excites, by elevating the soul. . . . That degree of excietement . . . cannot be sustained throughout a composition of any great length." This is true because of "that vital requisite in all works of Art, Unity," and the "absolute effect of even the best epic under the sun is a nullity." He proceeds to "the heresy of the Didactic": "there neither exists nor can exist any work more thoroughly dignified, more supremely noble than [the] poem which is a poem and nothing more—[the] poem written solely for the poem's sake." The proper mood for teaching a truth is completely opposed to the poetic mood. Poetry arises in the passionate reaching out "to apprehend the supernal Loveliness," to attain a vision, however brief, of the ideal beauty which is usually beyond our ken. "I would define, in brief, the Poetry of words as The Rhythmical Creation of Beauty. Its sole arbiter is Taste." Love, "the purest and truest of all poetical themes," is the highest variety of beauty, and beauty is "The province of the poem. . . . The incitements of Passion, or the precepts of Duty, or even the lessons of Truth, may . . . be introduced . . . but the true artist will always contribute to tone them down in proper subjection to . . . Beauty."
Eureka: A Prose Poem, metaphysical work by Poe, published in 1848.
Based on the author's reading in Newton, Laplace, and others, the work accepts intuition, as well as induction and deduction, among legitimate paths to knowledge. Unity and diffusion are truths, because they are felt to be so, and "irradiation, by which alone these two truths are reconciled, is a consequent truth—I perceive it." The universe, composed of atoms radiated outward from a primary divine unity to an almost infinite variety, is conceived to be governed by the complementary laws of attraction and repulsion, in terms of which all phenomena are explicable. This is shown by mathematical proof, and by reference to the principles of heat, light, and electricity. This view of a harmoniously ordered, perfect universe is then extended in a discussion of literary criticism, especially applied to fiction. "In the construction of plot . . . we should aim at so arranging the incidents that we shall not be able to determine, of any of them, whether it depends from any oone other or upholds it." The view has also an ethical application: "God—the material and spiritual God—now exists solely in the diffused Matter and Spirit of the Universe," and the regathering of these elements will reconstitute "The purelySpiritual and individual God," so that the operations of "Divine Injustice" or "Inexorable Fate" may at last be understood. We "no longer rebel at a Sorrow which we ourselves have imposed upon ourselves," and "in this view alone the existence of Evil becomes intelligible . . . it becomes endurable."
The Bells, poem by Poe, published in 1849. The four irregular stanzas, of varied meter, depict onomatopoetically, by means of reiterated alliteration, assonance, and phonetic imitation, four ways in which the sounds of bells influence moods: the merry tinkle of sleigh bells; the mellow, golden notes of wedding bells; the terrible shriek of alarm bells; and the solemn, melancholy roll of funeral bells. Poe's first version of this tour de force of "tintinnabulation" consisted of only 18 lines, suggested by his friend Mrs. M.L. Shew, but in its complete form the poem contains 113 lines. Its origin has been traced to a passage in Chateaubriand's Le Génie du christianisme.
Annabel Lee, lyrical ballad by Poe, posthumously published in the New York Tribune (Oct. 9, 1849). In six stanzas of alternate four- and three-stress lines, the poem has been called "The culmination of Poe's lyric style" in his recurrent theme of the loss of a beautiful and loved woman.