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[Text: Burton R. Pollin, Poe, Creator of Words, Baltimore: The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, 1974. (This lecture was delivered by Dr. Pollin at the Fifty-first Annual Commemoration Program of the Poe Society, October 7, 1973. Revisions have been applied from supplementary material published in 1980, 1983, 1989 and 1994. More current revisions have been applied directly to this e-text edition.) © 1974, by The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, Inc.; 1980, by Burton R. Pollin; 1998, by Burton R. Pollin and the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, Inc.]

[pages 1-4 are the cover and incidental "front matter"; page 5:]


    In presenting this list of over nine hundred words, [revisions increase this number to 1,178] either coined by Edgar Allan Poe or rightfully to be ascribed to him as first instances in print, I wish to open up a field of study for further investigation which has been virtually uncharted, untapped, and even unimagined. Consider, for example, the fact that Professors Neumann and Ramsay, in two short papers of 1942-1943, listed a total of twenty-seven words and compounds as Poe's total contribution to the English language. Surely it is time to set the record straight. In the course of presenting characteristic examples and explaining the bases of my three lists, I shall comment on the insight afforded into Poe's mind and linguistic habits, his psychology and his fields of interest, without being able to do more than scratch the surface.

    Poe's whole life was devoted to language-making, of course. Early in his career as a poet, the niceties and refinements of words engaged his passionate devotion. His more extensive concern with prose merely effected a transfer of his devotion to a broader field of writing. He became a magazinist, as he honorifically called himself in an age when the trend was "Magazine-ward," to use a Poe coinage; then he produced a stream of tales, reviews, essays, and lectures which belie the charges of sloth or negligence leveled at him by magazine proprietors, such as Thomas W. White and William Burton. Poe's almost sacred mission in life, as a critic and creative writer, was to exemplify and to exalt "The Power of Words." This is no rhetorical wording, for in three types of literary compositions Poe employed that very phrase and made its meaning peculiarly his own, although he probably derived it from Pope's "Sixth Epistle" (To Mr. Murray): "Grac'd as thou art with all the Pow'r of Words." Poe's use of the phrase tells us much about the supreme importance to him of language, especially in its creative aspects, a determinant not only of concepts but even of external reality. In the third of his Platonic narrative dialogues, that of June, 1845, called "The Power of Words," Oinos has recently joined Agathos as a "new-fledged" immortal spirit. The "final overthrow of the earth" has taken place, but the "Angelic" or mediate "Intelligences" can still function. Hence, Oinos takes note of a nearby "fair [page 6:] and wild star" with brilliant flowers and fierce volcanoes. Oinos learns that three centuries ago Agathos "spoke it with a few passionate sentences into birth" (1). Is this not the ultimate in the creative "power of words"? A little less mystic in its forcefulness but more germane to my subject is Poe's use of the phrase the next year in March, 1846 (Graham's Magazine, H:16.87-90). In a Marginalia entry he writes: "Now, so entire is my faith in the power of words, that, at times, I have believed it possible to embody even the evanescence of fancies such as I have attempted to describe." The evanescent fancies, which he calls "psychal" rather than "intellectual," arise when the "waking world" blends "into the world of dreams"; they are "shadows of shadows," or "visions" of "pleasurable ecstasy" and, he says, impressions of "senses" beyond the mortal five. Through words or language alone can they be transferred "into the realm of Memory" conveying "the supremeness of the novelty" of the experience. ("Supremeness" and "psychal," incidentally, are Poe coinages.) This shaping power of words is, of course, not discrete from the transcendent force of language in his tale of the same name.

    It is, unquestionably, to this Marginalia essay that Poe is alluding in the third use of the phrase, in his blank verse poem, "To Marie Louise," dated by Professor Mabbott as between December, 1847 and January, 1848. It is a rather contrived piece of occasional verse, requested by Mrs. Shew, and its denial of his previously expressed sentiment is probably less than sincere:

Not long ago, the writer of these lines,
In the mad pride of intellectuality,
Maintained the "Power of Words" denied that ever
A thought arose within the human brain
Beyond the utterance of the human tongue.
He then claims that her two names Marie and Louise
Have stirred from out the abysses of his heart
Unthought-like thoughts scarcely the shades of thought
Bewildering fantasies. . . . [page 7:]
Incidentally, the adjective applied to "thoughts," ''unthought-like,'' is a Poe coinage. (Poe also "vaunted the 'power of words' " in his celebrated letter of October 1, 1848, addressed to Sarah Whitman.) I am not convinced by Poe's denial, in a Valentine tribute, that thoughts can be inexpressible. The lists that I am offering to you as well as the very large corpus of criticism and creative writing, poured out in about twenty years, are proof of Poe's basic consecration of his energies to refining his thought and that of the writers whom he was evaluating into more effective expression. The unexpressed, the shadowy, and the fantastic as well as subtly discriminating nuances all could be embodied in standard language, or, if need be, in newly minted language.

    This effort to refine, sharpen, and, to a certain extent, to purify the language of American writers of his period was one of Poe's major aims in his criticism, and in part it earned him the sobriquet of the Tomahawk man. It was a dedication which cost him much in contemporary popularity. Before we discuss Poe's handling of language, it would be instructive to glance at the frequency in his reviews of sharp criticisms of the diction and of broader aspects, too, of the language usage of his fellow authors. His very early tone of assurance in this field implies an overweening confidence in his linguistic ability, in his nice discrimination in matters of rhetoric, syntax, grammar, and word usage, and in his general knowledge. Look, for example at his deprecatory review in 1835 of Norman Leslie, the work of Theodore Fay, a member of the immensely powerful literary clique of New York City; in this article Poe said: "Fay has been a-Willising so long he has forgotten his vernacular language" (H:8.60). Note his painstaking reprehension of the poet Drake's language in The Culprit Fay (H:8.287-295) and his objections, in 1836, to James S. French's "mannerisms" of expression; in 1840, to R. M. Walsh's "queer words" and poor translations of French terms (H:10.137); in 1841, to Warren's "grossest misusages of language" and "offensive vulgarities" (H:10.211); in 1842, to Thomas Ward's "bad taste," "pet expressions," and "niaiseries" or "sillinesses" (H:11.170-174); and to Lorrequer's "vulgarisms" in Charles O'Malley (H:11.97); in 1843 to Cooper's style in Wyandotte, including the use of the Greek "pseudo" in "pseudo patriotism" instead of the good English "false" or "spurious" (H:11.217-220); in 1844, to Moore's prosaic style (H:16.27) and to Bulwer's "involute" style (H:16.40) and to W. G. Simms's bad English (H:16.41); in 1845, in the important review of Miss Barrett's Drama of Exile, to her language affectation, "quaintnesses," "Nat Leeism" and "far-fetchedness of imagery" the last two being Poe coinages; [page 8:] in 1846, to Bryant's mannerism in using "old" (H:13.139); and in a posthumously printed paper on the Reverend J. T. Headley, whom he calls the Autocrat of Quacks, to his poor English and exaggerated tendency to "elocutionize" about Biblical events (a Poe word, of course; H:13.204).

    Perhaps more often, but less memorably among his contemporaries, does Poe remark on an author's meritorious style: e.g., in 1835, Southey's "masculine prose" (H:8.49) and Godwin's "full appreciation of the value of words and nice discrimination . . . between closely-approximating meanings" (H:8.93); and in the 1846 Literati, Willis' "correct" English despite his extravagant style (H:15.18) and William Kirkland's "vigorous, precise," and "idiomatic" style (H:15.24). Unfortunately, the ill that men speak of others is more noteworthy than the good; perhaps it might be useful to have a statistical count of the commendations versus the dispraise in the whole of Poe's criticism. In 1836, Poe himself tried to draw up such a balance sheet for his work in the Messenger after many accusations of his being overly caustic (H:8.xii-xv). Yet the whole matter of his critical fairness has been discussed and often rather ably only in general terms or for specific pieces of criticism, not for the whole bulk of his critical writing.

    An important issue is determining the basis for Poe's authoritative pronouncements about the language of his fellow authors in the 1830's and 1840's. For one thing, did he seek to establish the standard of good educated speech according to a concept of the usage of literary circles of the major Eastern cities? This was a problem to which Noah Webster had addressed himself in his 1806 and, more completely, in his 1828 dictionary, eager as he was to free the newly enfranchised provinces of England from the domination of British taste and standards. In all the critical writings of Poe there are many references to lexicography and named dictionaries, but his underlying viewpoint about American speech as distinct from British usage is unclear. Once he refers to the "American" (that is, the American language) "of President Polk," which is being "murdered" by Margaret Fuller (H:15.78), and he usually followed, like most Americans, one of the orthographic reforms of Noah Webster, the dropping of the "u" in nouns and adjectives ending in "our." On the other hand, he seems to be critical of Webster's bulky dictionary in 1841 (H:10.188) and in 1845 (H:14.185). In 1836, he had high praise for the New York reprint of the English work, Charles Richardson's New Dictionary of the English Language (H:9.103-106); Poe liked its method of relying almost exclusively upon chronologically listed quotations to indicate shifts in meanings of words. Two [page 9:] months later in 1836, he mildly praised Joseph E. Worcester's so-called Abridgment of Webster's American Dictionary. More significant are several comments by Poe on an American dictionary which aimed to supply fuller listings and more specific pronunciations than Webster or his competitors. This was William Bolles's An Explanatory and Phonographic Pronouncing Dictionary of 1845, published by Bolles and Williams in New London (944 pages) and again issued in 1846 in a 690-page abridgment. In the Broadway Journal of June 14, 1845, there appears an extensive review of this dictionary, not collected by Harrison but bearing several earmarks of Poe, in my opinion (BJ:1.377-378). Poe begins by objecting to the lack of the incorporation of current "new words" into standard dictionaries and ends by praising this as the most "comprehensive, accurate and practical . . . of its class." Yet, by September 6, 1845, Poe was disenchanted with Bolles's dictionary because of its unintentional omissions and defective definitions. For example, it lacked "controvertibility," "self-conceitedly," and "worldly-mindedly" (BJ:2.142-143). The oddity is that the first and third are not given by the OED even today and must therefore be regarded by us as Poe coinages. He admits, at the end that Bolles "is no worse than his predecessors." Apparently, however, suitably generalized definitions and comprehensive listing of all words and forms (here of adverbs) must be featured by an authoritative dictionary. Lastly, the next year, in the Literati notice of Margaret Fuller he says: "It will not do to say in defence of such words" (as the "Yankee interpretation" of "witness" and "realize") "that in such senses they may be found in certain dictionaries in that of Bolles', for instance; some kind of 'authority' may be found for any kind of vulgarity under the sun" (H:15.79). Perhaps Bolles's major fault was in being printed in New London and having a Frogpondium slant in its definitions (but it has indeed disappeared from all major New York City collections). Certainly, as a critic, Poe was prescriptive, but he never explicitly stated the standard of diction that he was applying in his criticism; despite his sympathy with the Young American movement in literature and his wish to sponsor a native school without lowering the level, he often veers toward a British formalism in language usage that may reflect his schooling in England.

    He did not, however acquire or retain any veneration for the swelling periods and sesquipedalian vocabulary of formal eighteenth century English style, at least in his criticism. In fact one of Poe's coinages is "Johnsonism," his own form of the word "Johnsonianism," which, in an 1836 review, he called the "Scylla . . . of the philological [page 10:] scholar." Again in 1841 he deprecated "a certain antique Johnsonism of style" (H:9.159 and H:15.180). Similarly Poe declared that Gibbon's "splendid and stately but artificial style" has "greatly vitiated our language" in "Literary Small Talk" of 1839 (H:14.92-93); in 1844, one of his sharpest observations is an item in Marginalia analyzing Gibbon's three much abused "hobbies": "Dignity, Modulation" and "Laconism" (H:16.14-17). Concerning the first, Poe attacks "being everlastingly on stilts as awkward and dangerous." As for the last, designated as "mere terseness," Poe admirably analyzes the error of saving words at the expense of immediate comprehension, through a textual examination that is a model of close reading. "Gibbonism" and "Gibbonish," incidentally, are two of Poe's scornful coinages. It is clear then that Poe wished to apply the standards of an authority to language usage, without being willing to accept any one dictionary text or any standard literary style, such as Johnson's or Gibbon's, prevalent in genteel early nineteenth century American society.

    On the other hand, Poe does admire a genuine terseness reflecting "the whole tendency of our age," which is "Magazine-ward," to use this Poe coinage again (H:16.117). Poe's statement elsewhere on this point is so basic as to warrant citation, especially since it is presented as a kind of uncharacteristic defense of a "downward" tendency in American taste (and we know how often Poe has been accused of snobbery). This is part of an 1845 Marginalia entry: "Men are forced upon the curt, the condensed, the well-digested in place of the voluminous in a word, upon journalism in lieu of dissertation. We need now the light artillery rather than the peace-makers of the intellect" (H:16.82), although in a later item he grants that "the lightness of the artillery should not degenerate into popgunnery" (H:16.118), another Poeism used to "designate the character" of newspapers. Men today "think with more rapidity, with more skill, with more of method and less of excrescence in the thought.'' If we glance at many of Poe's coinages, especially his word compounds, we find that he is trying to reduce or bar fustian, indirectness, and triviality in expression. His alert mind wanted the immediate and the short-cut approach to images and to concepts; therefore, he squeezed phrases into two-word compounds and tried to render the example into a generic term: "Bacon-engendered," "Willisism," "imparticularity," "punnage," "metaphysicianism," "indignitymist," "sea-brilliancy," and "trumpet-thunder."

    It is important to note that there are several varieties of word compounds, in Poe's view. One of them merely decorates or elaborates an idea unnecessarily, perhaps even redundantly, and this type is [page 11:] implied in Poe's reference to "the word-compounders and quibble concoctors of Frogpondium'' (H:15.69); needless to say, Frogpondium is also Poe's coinage for Boston, along with the "Frog-Pond" and the adjective "Frogpondian." Another type is humorous, often satiric, sometimes shocking in its novelty, and not essentially contributory to the total "power of words" of our language. This type probably arises from the habitual indulgence in linguistic play, puns, fanciful place names, and jocular coinages of the authors, especially in the journals of the 1830's and 1840's, as Allen Walker Read has pointed out (2). It is a phenomenon that needs more study than it has received, especially for its influence upon literary figures. Such a study would require a careful examination of the magazines and newspapers of the day and the reading habits and scope of references, interests, and author assignments of figures such as Poe, Melville, and Hawthorne. Among Poe's words are many almost flippant coinages of this sort, often compounds but also single words, especially for the proper noun derivatives. These coinages indicate, to my mind, a power of satire attached to a gay and merry spirit that too few readers impute to the poet of "The Raven" and the writer of Tales of the Grotesque. Consider, for example, "quacky," "silk-buckingham" (a whole cloth constructed out of a silly British Temperance lecturer), "come-at-able" (for a legacy), "doubt-vapors" for dreams, "goosetherumfoodle" for nonsense, "helter-skelteriness," "moonhoax-y," "dunderheadism," an "every-man-for-himself-confederacy," and "carry-one's-self-in-a-basket logic." Many are used in his humorous tales and many more in his literary criticism: "Count Allamistakeo," "Aries Tottle" (for Aristotle), "Hog-ian philosophy," the "Hemanshood" of Mrs. Sigourney's poetry, the "Elector of Bluddennuff," "Bulwerized" chapter-headings, "Cooperish" names, "Mademoiselle Cribalittle," "Dialism," "Emersonize," "Doctor Drummummupp," the mythical philologist named "Grogswigg" (perhaps a double for Mr. Poe) whose German friend is "Kroutaplenttey," "Maturinism," the magazine "North American Quarterly Humdrum," "Petrarchanities" (changed later to "Tuckermanities" after Poe's rival Henry Tuckerman), Mr. "Quizzem," Mr. "Bibulus O'Bumper," the "Snook Farm Phalanx" for the detested Brook Farm phalanstery, "Augustus Scratchaway," the "Yampoos" (perhaps after Swift's Yahoos and Indian wampum), Mr. "Windenough," and Mr. "Thomas Hawk." It is appropriate [page 12:] that, by implication, the last one is the author himself, Mr. Poe, accused so often of tomahawking his fellow writers.
    To return to the question of types of word compounds Poe created many of a third type not purely ornamental or pretentious, not humorous or satirical, but poetic, evocative, fancy-embodying, according to the "power of words" at their suggestive best, as he expressed it; many of these come from his poems: the "angel-nod," the "after-drunkenness of soul," the "eagle-hope," the "fountain-flood" of the Naiad, the "ghoul-haunted woodland," the "lip-begotten words," the "sad-serene City in the Sea," the "silvery-silken," the "spirit-land," the "star-dials," the "star-isles," the "love-haunted heart," the "wanlight," and the "storm-tormented ocean of his thoughts," and "surf-tormented shore." The list of compounds is full of these fantasies of his creative auctorial spirit.

    Before considering the total list for other specific categories of coinages, which provide insight into the personality of Poe the word-creator, I should answer a question that must have arisen in your minds: Does this list imply an unusual language-making facility in Poe? The subject is, unfortunately, one that has not been sufficiently plumbed for American authors. In 1941, J. M. Purcell examined "Melville's Contribution to English" (PMLA, September, 1941, 55.797-808), to conclude that the total corpus of Melville's writings yielded fewer than 200 "new" words, including compounds. He also hedged a bit, I feel, in listing among these words many that had a wide gap in time between Melville's use and the last use in the Oxford English Dictionary, namely, the end of the seventeenth century. In contrast, I have included only one or two instances where there was a fifteenth century solitary citation before Poe's use or three or four where there was a single year's difference which would make it unlikely for Poe to have caught the word from his contemporaries so quickly. Aside from a book by Lois Margaret Maclaurin devoted to Franklin's vocabulary (New York, 1928), there is only one lengthy study of an American's contribution to the language; that study is Robert L. Ramsay's compendious Mark Twain Lexicon (3). The book tries to deal with Twain's characteristic and regional vocabulary; it indicates a total of 4342 words of which Twain's is the earliest recorded usage and 2716 with no dictionary authority whatever (p. lvii). Of course this is many times [page 13:] Poe's total, but that might be expected, in view of the greater bulk of Twain's work, the humorous tone of many of his books and recorded lectures, and his extensive reliance upon the flippant, fanciful, and antiformal ambience of Western newspapers of the late nineteenth century. A good study might be made of the differences in the nature, the fields exploited, and the evinced tendencies in the coinages of the two American writers.

    It was probably Ramsay's research on Mark Twain that made him deprecate Poe's word coinages in his review of Bradford Booth's Concordance to Poe's poems (4), in which he credited Poe with three common words: "scoriac," "tuckermanities," and "tintinnabulation," an unspecified "dozen" or more "fascinating proper names" and "eight compounds." He mentions an early, unpublished thesis which would add thirteen others (although his inclusion of "full-orbed" is incorrect, since it was Southey's). A follow up of this American Speech article of February, 1942 (17.109-113) by J. H. Neumann, exactly a year later in the same magazine (18.73-74), added twenty-four more single-word Poe coinages, causing him to assert that Poe was not "prolific," in this phase of authorship. The reader of my lists might come to rather different conclusions.

    Indeed, I should like to raise the issue of whether these may not cause us to consider or reconsider the whole question of Poe's sense of style and linguistic aims. This is especially important in view of several attempts to deprecate Poe's handling of language. First, a brief historical note: Did his contemporaries regard him as a writer with a distinctive style? A few instances may indicate a prevailing attitude, much diluted perhaps by the many writers and journalists who received the brickbats tossed at their own style by the caustic Mr. Poe. In 1832 Lambert Wilmer, in the Saturday Visiter, praised Poe's manuscript tales for "originality, richness of imagery, and purity of style" (August 4); the New York Mirror of August 11, 1839 (16.55) conceded to Pym "a fine mastery over language; and powers of description rarely excelled." The next year, the New-York American (December 21, 1839) praised "the wild and vivid fancy . . . and copious style" of his Tales, and this book was also praised by the Mirror for its "command over the elegances of diction" (17.50, December 28, 1839). In January, 1846, we find Godey's Lady's Magazine, in its review of The Raven and Other Poems, mentioning his "command over the English language [page 14:] masterly felicity in diction" (32.48). Latrobe, one of the judges in the Saturday Visiter contest of 1833, later praised his "pure classic diction" with "no feeble phraseology,. . . no wornout truism, no strong thought elaborated into weakness" (H:1.104). In 1845, Lowell wrote, "His style is highly finished, graceful and truly classical" (H:1.379). Finally, we find N. P. Willis printing "Ulalume," on January 1, 1848, under the caption, "Epicureanism in Language." Statistically these citations prove little, but I believe that they indicate a widely held attitude.

    By contrast, what are the prevailing opinions of Poe as a rhetorician and stylist today; do these views encompass his very apparent gifts of language-making, his mastery of varied styles, and his ingenuity and inventiveness? Essentially, the statement of Bradford Booth prefacing his Concordance of 1942 is still correct thirty years later: "There has never been any investigation of his diction. . . . Poe was meticulous . . . and his vocabulary is as characteristic as his metrics" (p. v.). There have been fine studies of his views of the principles of fiction and drama, of his metrics, of his literary controversies, of his goals of protecting the American authors' rights and of lifting standards of journalism, but none of his various levels of style, his nuances of diction, his theories of word-formation, and his recognition of the need for an ever-expanding vocabulary to keep pace not only with technology but also with the complexity of new trends in philosophic discourse. There are not even doctoral theses on the diction and rhetoric of his various types of prose, only repetitious treatments of his critical theories and of the psychiatric, symbolic, and structuralist undercurrents of his tales, despite his explicit attacks upon unaesthetic and extraneous allegories in the fictions that he reviewed. An occasional brief paper will discuss stylistic differences between one tale and another and a large number of critics will fire their "popguns" at Poe's allegedly pompous or turgid or artificial texture of language, while usually acknowledging its total power or indefinable enchantments (5). H. L. Mencken, on the other hand, said that Poe "achieved a rotund and ornate style," presumably in his tales (6). Even the abridged context of the many words [page 15:] listed at the end of this study may provide a more balanced estimate of Poe's prose style. It is ironically characteristic of Poe studies that even in this field a pioneer critique of his style, by no means partial to Poe, is the French preface by Roger Asselineau to the Contes, published in Paris in 1968 (Aubier Flammarion), "La Langue et le Style" (pp. 98-105). He considers him an intellectual, not an artist in his style, indulging in false elegance, borrowed allusions, artificiality, limited in his handling of description, and heedless of good prose sound-effects, and concludes that Poe felt like a romantic and wrote like an eighteenth century essayist. These charges certainly need to be carefully considered, perhaps answered, especially for the criticism, but not here.

    In various ways, Poe himself showed his awareness of the author's constant need for language-making facility. For example, he uses the adjective "Cheeverish" based on George Cheever, the name of a deprecated contemporary, appending the clause, "if we may coin a phrase." Similarly for the "associationists" of Brook Farm, he coins "the Crazyites what else shall I call them." In "The Man of the Crowd" he speaks of "deskism for want of a better word." In his criticism he alludes to "homelinesses (if we may be permitted the word)"; to "graphicality (why is there not such a word?)"; and to "literature-ism (we must coin a word)." He borrows words from other languages, and Englishes them, such as "sangsue" for leech, or pretends to borrow them as with "pechingzies," or mistakenly tries to, as with "plastically," which he declares to be a German equivalent for "pictorially or graphically," thereby anticipating modern art criticism.

    Another standard Poe practice in evidence is his italicizing words which he thinks he is coining. A few dozen of his so-called coinages show that he failed to consult Bolles's or Worcester's dictionary, since I had to eliminate them as already in use, but at least forty-four maintained their foothold in my list including some which have entered our speech or, to be dogmatic, should do so: "art-product," "far-fetchedness," "arabesquerie," "bel-esprit-ism," "bibliophagi," "decora," "de-euphonizing," "elocutionize," "hyperism," "grotesquerie," "indefinitiveness," "life-likeness," "clerky," "quotability," "slipshodiness," "ultra-didacticism," and "uni-tendency." Others may be sought out through the italicized print in the context of my appended lexicon. Poe's differentiation of type clearly indicates the nicety of his own sense of language usage and his deference to the good taste and standards of his readers.

    Several of these italicized terms lie in the broad field of literary criticism, and remind us not only that this often engaged Poe as a [page 16:] writer but also that he believed that through a more exact vocabulary we could be refined, accurate, and fair-minded in our judgments. Briefly, we might say that Poe was fully aware of the semantics of criticism and concerned with a proper critical vocabulary. Repeatedly he condemned excess and exaggeration, which he called "hyperism"; problems in the handling of realistic detail caused him to speak of "life-likeness" and "life-likeliness," "naturalism," "graphicality," and "extravaganzists"; he condemned "ultra-didacticism" and "Orphicism," "metaphysicianism," "rhetoricianism," "dramaticism," and every "review-clique." He spoke keenly about the "indefinitiveness" of music vis-a-vis poetry, " ultra-romanticism, " "paragraphism," books written to be "portable," the "witty-pedantic" style, the "prose-poem," and "character-painting."

    On the other hand, among so many words, there would have to be many pertaining to common and commonplace objects, perhaps showing that Poe merely embalmed in his books expressions widely current but not recorded by any of the contemporary or, for a few words, subsequent dictionaries: "balloon-bag," "chandelier-chain," "cigar-girl" and "perfumery-girl," "demon-traps" on the stage, "dog-leaf," "history-writing," "humming-top, " "mail-robber," "trunk-paper," "walking-advertiser" and "walking advertisement," and ''coffin-tressels.'' Earlier I mentioned Poe's desire to be concise, although not by sacrificing good sense, as he said of Gibbon. Thus he wished adjectives to relate specifically to common nouns: "chasmal," "cipherical," "clerky," "psychal," "scansional," "sibyllic." Since the variety of his interests encompassed scientific developments, especially demonstrated in Eureka, we find him apparently coining such terms as "concentralization," "counter-vortex," "imparticularity," "cycloid," "nebulist," "space-penetrating" [removed from the list in the 1989 supplement], "light-particles" and "light-impressions," and "ray-streams." A few, but very few, of his coinages may be attributable to misconceptions or even typographical mistakes, such as "sphereicity," or "fillogram," or "post-pranclian," or "nare," but Poe's mastery of Latin (7) and, probably of Greek, as well as a still disputed control over German, French, Spanish, and Italian makes his errors or blunders very few indeed.

    He certainly had mannerisms or, shall I say, tendencies, in his coinages, which tell us much more about his personality than there is time to indicate here. He used "looking" as a sort of enclitic at the [page 17:] end of thirty-eight compounds, such as "cosy-looking," "ivory-looking," "square-looking," and ''light-house-looking.'' "Like," added to a noun, provided twenty-four words, from the useful "chasm-like" to the humorous "forlorn-hope-like." "Half" is prefixed to nouns, verbs, and adjectives for thirty-eight compounds, the totality perhaps revealing more hesitation or indecisiveness in Poe's psyche than his tone generally evidenced. He attached "ill" as a prefix to eight compounds and often tacked on the abstract substantive ending "ness" to words or phrases to produce compounds such as "over-acuteness," "long-leggedness," or "neck-or-nothingness." His use of "soul" as the first element in eight compounds is probably symptomatic of his belief. He was far from being consistent, for although he puristically objected to attaching "pseudo" to non-Greek roots, he did it himself, six times. He used the negative prefixes "in" thirteen times, "un" twelve times, and "non," ten. Finally, perhaps appropriately for the first-person narrator par excellence, he started thirteen compounds with "self."

    Perhaps my lists have stimulated questions about the principles of selection and the criteria for inclusion. I must make clear the sources that I have employed, the authorities for usage, and the differentiate for inclusion or exclusion. The basic text has been the many volumes of Poe's works in the James A. Harrison edition of 1902, extending from volumes 2 through 16. For the seventh volume, the poems, I have substituted the much more complete and accurate Harvard edition of 1969, edited by the late Professor T. O. Mabbott, called Poems. The dating of revised poems in this volume has occasionally required using the editor's designation of Tamerlane A or B, since my entire list tries to give the publication date of any entry, in chronological succession if there are several instances of Poe's use. For the body of his letters which I also scanned for his word-coinages, I used the two volumes edited by John W. Ostrom in the 1964 Harvard reprint (of the 1948 edition) which included a supplement. These words, called "Ostrom" in my text, therefore were not published in Poe's time and could not influence usage at all, as was the case obviously with a word such as "litten," Poe's invented archaism which became a Victorian favorite. For the very early forms of several tales published in the Philadelphia Saturday Courier, I used the convenient text published by John Grier Varner in 1933 (University of Virginia), called therefore "Varner"; a few early coinages appeared here that were canceled in the Harrison printings. For Poe's journalistic columns in Alexander's Weekly Messenger, of 6 December, 1839 to 6 May, 1840, I relied upon Clarence S. Brigham's convenient reprint with T. O. Mabbott's additional annotations [page 18:] (Worcester: Antiquarian Society, 1943) designated as "Brigham" in my text. For Poe's seven letters of 1844 to the editor of the Pottsville Columbia Spy, I relied upon the Spannuth-Mabbott reprint of 1929, called Doings of Gotham (1844). In the Broadway Journal itself of 1845 I used material uncollected by Harrison, validating the text from my own knowledge of Poe's style and allusions and collating it with studies by Hull, Reece, and Campbell. Omitted Marginalia entries were consulted in the original magazine, and a few verbatim reports of lectures and uncollected writings in periodicals are used and identified in the text. I used the short rubric "review" to designate reports of books and plays and some essay material in the Harrison Poe, to save space. Only enough of the context is given to indicate the meaning, and I have not hesitated to create short sentences out of longer ones by lopping off the first or last part without suspension points. For the poetry context, however, a complete line is usually provided. Scanning for all these materials produced at least twice the number finally listed; the initial basis was my own hunch about the word's being a "first" for Poe. The Oxford English Dictionary helped to establish that apparent fact, although there was one gross weakness in the sifting by the OED (as my text calls it), the fact that its readers used a markedly deficient edition listed in its bibliography as The Works "(1865) ante 1849." This is probably a reprint of the Redfield edition in four volumes edited by Griswold, 1850-1856, but the citations in the OED are to only three volumes. Neither the British Museum Catalogue, nor Francis Desmond's list of British reprints, nor the Library of Congress Catalogue, nor any other large catalogue consulted gives this British edition, so that one cannot tell how much was omitted from it; certainly the dating was vague, for most of the OED Poe entries are misdated, with a catch-all "1849." This may have caused its selection committee to throw out many entries that I have included because the 1849 date was apparently subsequent to an earlier use of that word, which may, in fact, have been printed later than in Poe's 1839 to 1849 American texts.

    Next, having strained the lists through the fine mesh of the OED and its supplement, I subjected them to William A. Craigie's four-volume Dictionary of American English (1938-44) and Mitford M. Mathews' Dictionary of Americanisms (1951) to test for American usage that had escaped the QED. Thirteen words not in the OED turned up in these two and were dropped, including "dog-meat," "fine-looking," "garden-spot," "ground-mole," and "spring-house." A few which had a date very close to Poe's use were retained, with a special [page 19:] note in my text. Then, several more were dropped as being insufficiently parasynthetic, e.g., "deeply-burthened" or "seriously-adduced," even though Poe hyphenated them, in the rather free style of his day. A few doubtfuls were retained because they were in the OED as firsts in Poe or with later "first" usage. For only one or two remote early usages did I retain a Poe usage, but I regretted having to drop Poe's "flower-enamelled" (in "Zante") simply because Drayton had used it in 1596 (8). I dropped "stamen," which was a Poe misconception for "strength," instead of "elemental principle," by back-derivation from "stamina," the plural form. All pseudo-dialectal words as in "Why the Little Frenchman . . ." were eliminated; likewise, several foreign expressions, taken unchanged in form and meaning into the text, such as "pavoneggiarsi to strut like a peacock" (H:11.175; H:14.172; and H:16.169). Some will say that more should have been dropped, and others that more compounds could have been included. My effort has not been to swell a list, but rather to demonstrate Poe's ingenious exploitation of the "power of words," especially in his efforts to express the previously unexpressed and, therefore, the inconceivable. In 1844, using the new word "logicalize," Poe declared that for the "logician," by which he means the "verbalist," "the universe is one word" (H:16.37). "He deposits upon a sheet of paper a certain assemblage of syllables, and fancies that their meaning is riveted by the act of deposition." Less jocosely, in 1846, Poe asserted that words lend "distinctness" to vague concepts: "The thought is logicalized by the effort at (written) expression" (H:16.88). The attached lists will offer the many admirers of Poe's work additional proof that Poe was deliberate and marvelously skillful in this life-long "effort."

The Lists and other material:



1 - James A. Harrison, ed., The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell and Co., 1902), vol. 6, p.144. Hereafter this edition will be used for all volume-page references in parentheses, prefixed with an "H" [for example, H:6.144 for page 144 of volume 6]. I must express my gratitude to the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and to the Research Foundation of the City University of New York for the free time and clerical assistance needed to complete this study; to Richard Hart and Alexander Rose for making the publication possible; to Averil J. Kadis for indefatigably and perceptively preparing it for the press; and to the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the Edgar Allan Poe Society, and the Library of the University of Baltimore for their generous subsidy.   [This footnote appears on page 6.]

2 - Allen Walker Read, "The First Stage in the History of 'O. K.' " in American Speech, 38 (February 1963), pp. 5-27, especially, pp. 19-25. My thanks are due Dr. Read for other valuable references used herein.  [This footnote appears on page 11.]

3 - Ramsay, A Mark Twain Lexicon (in collaboration with Frances G. Emberson), University of Missouri Studies, 13 (January 1938). He cites on p. lxvii of Twain's A Tramp Abroad, Appendix: "In our newspapers the compounding-disease lingers a little to the present day."  [This footnote appears on page 12.]

4 - Ramsay, "A Poe Concordance," in American Speech, 17 (April 1942), pp. 109-113. [This footnote appears on page 13.]

5 - For example, for a limited comparison of two tales, see Donald Stauffer, "Style and Meaning in 'Ligeia' and William Wilson,' " Studies in Short Fiction, 2 (1965), 316-330; see also Auden's sparse comments on Poe's appropriately "operatic" prose in Selected Prose, Poetry and Eureka (New York: Rinehart Press, 1950), Introduction.   [This footnote appears on page 14.]

6 - Mencken, The American Language (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), pp. 136-137. He claims that Poe achieved this style despite the popular, extravagant speech common in newspapers.    [This footnote appears on page 14.]

7 - See E. K. Norman, "Poe's Knowledge of Latin," American Literature, 6 (March 1934), pp. 72-77.    [This footnote appears on page 16.]

8 - My thanks are due to Professor Anthony LaBranche, who helped me to clarify the ambiguous citation in the QED. I do not believe that Poe saw the word in Drayton, but I am rigorously excluding it.    [This footnote appears on page 19.]

[Page numbers noted here are based on the 1974 edition. Page numbers in the 1980 edition are one value higher than those shown here, making page 5 of the 1974 edition appear as page 6 of the 1980 edition.]

[In addition to applying supplementary updates to the lists, a few minor errors in the text have been silently corrected.]

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