Text: Various, “Marginalia,” from Poe Newsletter­, June 1970, vol. III, no. 1, 3:21-22


[page 21, column 1:]


This column is devoted to brief notes, comments, queries. We wish to provide here an outlet for such items as source notes which do not require the extended argument and proof that customarily attends them, and for items of very special or peculiar interest which otherwise might not appear. Contributions to this column should be one paragraph in form, not to exceed in length a page and a half of typescript, with all bibliographical citations enclosed in brackets. 

A Typographical Error in the B Version  of Poe’s “Sonnet — To Science”

I am indebted to the writer Frances Gray Patton for the recent gift of several copies of the newspaper The Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post, among which is the issue of 11 September 1830. In the extreme left-hand column of the front page of this issue, in the column headed “Original Poetry,” appear six poems in the following order: “A Day Dream. To Laura” by “Milford Bard”; “To A— C— “ by S. J. Anderson; “Sonnet Second” by Fullerton; “Sonnet” by Edgar A. Poe; “To Miss C. S. Y. of Prince George’s, Md.” by “W——N”; “Nuts to Crack” by Milford Bard.” (The “Milford Bard” was Dr. John Lofland.) The Post text of Poe’s “Sonnet — To Science” Mabbott gives as his B version [Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe: Vol. I, Poems (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard U P, 1969)]. But it has a variant from his J version (The Raven and Other Poems, 1845) not noted by either him [pp. 90-91 ] or by Killis Campbell [The Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (Boston: Ginn & Co., 1917), p. 33]. The Post text, line 3, has a misprint “pray’st,” which, according to Mabbott, appears as “prey’st,” and, according to Campbell, as “preyest.” The printer’s error “pray’st,” which went unnoticed by both Mabbott and Campbell, suggests that one misprint may have been followed by another — that the questionable “Nais” (line 12) after all may have been a typographical error for “Naiad.” Several variants in punctuation also occur. In the B version, line 1, “old time” is not capitalized. It may be assumed that Poe did not proofread his sonnet before its final appearance in the Post. These comments on the B version apply as well to the C version (the Casket text for October 1830) since, according to Mabbott [I, 90] “C is from B’s type, left standing and reused.”

David K. Jackson, Durham, North Carolina  

An Error in Some Recent Printings of “Ligeia”

In our research for an article on the Lady Ligeia as a figment of the deranged narrator’s mind (forthcoming in the December 1970 RMMLA Bulletin), we discovered that in several printings of the story the word “my” has been erroneously substituted for “her” at a crucial point, weakening the dramatic effect of this meticulously structured tale. The mistake occurs near the middle of the eighth paragraph where Poe intended the narrator to lament: “How had I deserved to be so blessed by such confessions — how had I deserved to be cursed with the removal of my beloved in the hour of her making them” [our italics]. In the corrupted texts, “my” takes the place of “her,” making it unnecessarily obvious that the narrator has himself invented Ligeia’s “confessions.” As a consequence, the critical reader may well miss the pleasure of piecing together the subtle clues which were intended to disclose gradually the narrator’s tale as fabrication. The correct version appears in both the original publication [American Museum of Literature and the Arts, I, No. 1 (September 1838), 30] and in a revised presentation [The Broadway Journal, II (27 September 1845), 173]. In many modern printings, however, notably the Modern Library Giant version, The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. Hervey Allen [New York, 1938, p. 658], the error has been perpetuated.

June Davis, Jack L. Davis, University of Idaho. [column 2:]  

Preposition and Meaning in Poe’s “The Spectacles”

In the Modern Library edition of The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (New York, 1937), p. 707, and in the Doubleday edition, Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (Garden City, 1966), p. 480, a curious printing error occurs in the last sentence of “The Spectacles” that radically alters the meaning of the story. The sentence reads “In conclusion: I am done forever with billets doux, and am never to be met with SPECTACLES.” In the standard edition of Poe, The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. James A. Harrison (New York, 1902), V, 209, in The Broadway Journal of 22 November 1845, from which Harrison draws his text of the story, and in The University of Texas manuscript of “The Spectacles,” the preposition in the second line of the excerpt is “without,” not “with.” “The Spectacles” is, in part, a comic variant on “Ligeia,” and Poe characterizes the protagonist as a ludicrous version of the transcendentally inclined husband. Similar to Ligeia’s husband, the young man in “The Spectacles” worships the sublime as it is personified in woman. In this connection, the plot centers on his falling hopelessly in love at first sight with an ostensibly beautiful young woman whom he has noticed at the opera. For reasons of vanity, however, the young man has refused to wear spectacles prescribed for his weak eyes, and therefore never sees with clarity the object of his affections. After forcing a meeting with the woman, he finally secures a promise of marriage, but only after agreeing to wear spectacles once they are man and wife. The wedding ceremony completed, he puts on the spectacles and suddenly discovers that his passion has been misguided and immoderate: the wife turns out to be his great, great grandmother who has decided to punish him for his lack of decorum at the opera. Appropriately enough, his hazy vision of the sublime turns into what is grotesque as his wife’s age and condition are revealed. The comic ordeal concludes when the protagonist is informed that the marriage was a hoax, performed by one of the conspirators who posed as a clergyman. Repentant of his vanity and impetuousness, he declares, in essence, that he intends to achieve a more authentic vision of life. The last sentence of the story in the Harrison edition reads “In conclusion: I am done forever with billets doux, and am never to be met without SPECTACLES.” The appearance of “with” in the Modern Library and Doubleday editions is thematically inconsistent with the rest of the story, as well as bibliographically incorrect.

Joel Salzberg, The University of Colorado, Denver Center  

Letters, Signatures, and “Juws” in Poe’s “Autography”

Alexander Hammond [Poe Newsletter, II, 55-56] suggests that Poe encoded a riddle in his “Autography” involving an anti-Semitic joke: citing the phonetic spelling produced by J and U, which were repeatedly omitted, Hammond presumes Joseph Miller is a Jew. I should like to suggest a supplementary, if not an alternative, interpretation. As Mr. Hammond observes, Joseph Miller is a “signature collector.” However, more than one type of signature is present, since the term may also refer to the number(s) or letter(s) placed at the bottom of the page of handset books to aid the binder in arranging the sheets in their proper order. (In fact, the folded sheet was sometimes called a signature, although “gathering” is the more generally accepted term; these signatures were collected, or gathered, then sewn together and bound to complete production of the book.) This is further emphasized when we consider there used to be no formal differentiation between I and J, or U and V; as Ronald McKerrow states [Introduction to Bibliography, Oxford: 1965, p. 75] these letters “. . . . are not used separately in signatures, i.e., there is one gathering signed i or j, and one signed u or v.” Random examination of eighteenth and nineteenth century books shows that j and u were most frequently omitted, and though the page signatures appearing in Southern Literary Messenger are numerals instead of letters, it seems logical to assume that Poe was familiar with the convention. I agree with Mr. Hammond that a burlesque is present, but I think it goes beyond anti-Semitism. There are present in the authors ’ letters to Miller at least as many “bibliophile” references as there are Jewish ones, [page 22:] and I think the former idea can be taken further. Certain of the replies, for example, refer to editions, margins, foolscap, literary autographs, and the like, and in only one of the thirty-eight letters (counting the August supplement) is no mention made of the type and grade of paper used. Poe’s comic frame (set up through dialogue with Miller, as Hammond observes) becomes more interesting in that the only letter repeated is W — which, significantly, is the only letter of the alphabet that is not used as a signature [McKerrow, pp. 75-76]. And indeed, even Poe’s constant abbreviation of Miller’s last name suggests a printing term: an “em” refers to a space of any type font or size; an “em quad,” shorter than a regular piece of type, would be inserted to space words or letters. The publisher-editor context thus provides the probable source for Poe’s joke and adds an extra dimension to it. The individuals that Poe wished to comment on were writers, and books were their vehicles. Metaphorically, what better vehicle could Poe have chosen to complement his hoax?

Roger O ’Connor, Washington State University  

More on the “Fig-Pedler”

Thanks to Ben H. McClary for calling attention in the October 1969 issue to Poe’s motto (”In the name of the Prophet — figs!”) for “How to Write a Blackwood Article.” It is a deft poignarding. Poe meant by it that Blackwood’s contributors have made much out of little, have padded trifles into articles, have delivered mice from mountains: that by such literary techniques as he is about to demonstrate “Parturient mountains have ere now produced muscipular abortions.” He is quoting from a then enormously admired volume of humor entitled Rejected Addresses; or, The New Theatrum Poetarum, a collection of literary parodies by Horace and James Smith, originally published in London in October, 1812, and so popular that my copy (Boston: Ticknor, Reed and Fields, 1851) is advertised as “from the twenty-second London edition” and contains the Smiths ’ preface to the eighteenth edition (1833). The specific parody excerpted from by Poe is of Samuel Johnson’s prose style, is called “Johnson’s Ghost,” and the “figs” quotation is . . . . [See Burton R. Pollin’s “Figs, Bells Poe, and Horace Smith” in this issue for the full quotation.] Independent testimony to the popularity of the phrase comes from the humorist George H. Derby (”John Phoenix,” “Squibob”), who used it as the epigraph to Phoenixiana (1855) and whose literary executors prefixed it to the posthumous The Squibob Papers ( 1865). In 1903, in fact, when that other celebrated humorist (and editor John Kendrick Bangs wrote an appreciation of Derby for a new edition of Phoenixiana, he began his paper by quoting the phrase, which had by then become not only classical but something like the trade mark of Phoenix — not of Madame Psyche Zenobia. Whether Poe first came across Rejected Addresses in England earlier or at his editorial desk shortly before 1838 I do not profess to know, but the parodist of “A Predicament” must have delighted in the Smiths ’ twenty-one parodies — which may even have suggested to him the idea of using the genre in dealing with Blackwood’s and its contributors.

Richard Schuster, New England College.  

More on “The Angel of the Odd”

The article by Claude Richard on Poe’s “The Angel of the Odd” [Poe Newsletter, II, 46-48] caught my attention. In general I found it excellent, but there are two points on which I should like to comment. The first is M. Richard’s contention that Baudelaire’s translation of “to arouse” as “se réveiller” was inaccurate. Granting that a secondary meaning of “arouse” can be, as M. Richard indicates, to evoke a response to “poetic sentiment” in a work of art, it seems to me quite unlikely that Poe had anything like that in mind here. Baudelaire’s translation is not infrequently inaccurate in certain details, but I do not believe that he can be faulted in this instance. My second comment concerns M. Richard’s fourth note, in which he says: “A puzzling reference (perhaps punningly [?] to Disraeli’s Curiosities of Literature since ‘The Angel of the Odd ’ appeared in 1844, and, to my knowledge, Griswold’s first edition of The Curiosities of American Literature appeared in 1847.” There can be little [column 2:] doubt that Poe was referring to Griswold’s work and not to Disraeli’s, punning or not. The Center for Baudelaire Studies owns a copy of Curiosities of Literature, and The Literary Character Illustrated, by I. C. D ’israeli, Esq. D. C. L., F. S. A., with Curiosities of American Literature, by Rufus W. Griswold. Complete in one volume. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 200 Broadway. 1844. Griswold’s “Curiosities” occupy the last 64 pages of the volume, with separate pagination.

W. T. Bandy, Vanderbilt University

Pursuing the implications of the symposium on Poe’s wit and humor in the last PN, readers may find the following note, in conjunction with Patrick F. Quinn’s review of Richard Wilbur’s latest musings on Poe [See ALS / 1968, pp. 160-161], of interest as further evidence of Poe’s intellectual impishness. — Ed. 

A Note on Fortunato’s Coughing

Although the tone of “The Cask of Amontillado” is gravely ironic, there is in the story evidence also of another aspect of Poe’s humor. Poe must have been toying with the philosophical question of how to most beautifully represent coughing, for his thoughtful approach to Fortunato’s fit of coughing is not unworthy of comparison to Socrates ’ dividing a straight line in The Republic.

“Nitre,” [Montresor] replied. “How long have you had that cough?”

“Ugh! ugh! ugh! — ugh! ugh! ugh! — ugh! ugh! ugh! — ugh! ugh! ugh! — ugh! ugh! ugh!”

In all Fortunato coughs fifteen times, an unusually great number of coughs for such a short story. The basic pattern of these coughs would seem to be five groups of three coughs, separated by dashes. This grouping by threes, furthermore, would seem to be in keeping with Poe’s favorite formula for laughing. In “The Purloined Letter,” for example, the Prefect of Parisian Police, when amused by Dupin, roars, “Ha! ha! ha! — ha! ha! ha! — ho! ho! ho!” In “Bon-Bon” his Majesty also laughs in bursts of threes, “Ha! ha! ha! — he! he! he! — hu! hu! hu!,” while the Devil uproariously thunders, “ha! ha! ha! — he! he! he! — hi! hi! hi! — ho! ho! ho! — hu! hu! hu!” And in “The Duc De L’Omelette,” his Grace chortles, “Ha! ha! ha!” to which the Devil weakly replies, “He! he! he!” Even Montresor himself laughs in like fashion, albeit with one imperfect triplet: “Ha! ha! ha! — he! he! . . . . he! he! he! . . . . he! he! he!” and “He! he! he! — he! he! he!” Poe’s use of this underlying pattern whenever someone laughs or coughs might seem to negate the artist in him, since he habitually relied on this formula of three bursts. Closer attention to Fortunato’s coughing fit, however, reveals a high degree of artistic subtlety. Three different types of coughs are actually employed: double coughs (ugh !ugh !), compound coughs (ugh !— ugh!), and single coughs (ugh !). Furthermore, an even closer look reveals that a pattern of neo-classic balance obtains in the coughing fit — it begins and ends with a double cough, has a compound cough second and penultimate, and in between an alternation of single and compound coughs. In the middle is a single cough, and from the middle recede in opposite directions two identical sequences of coughs. Using the numerals 1 for doubles, 2 for compounds, and 3 for singles, one can express the pattern thus: 1 2 3 2 3 2 3 2 1. Even had Poe not been such a conscious craftsman, this pattern could hardly be mere fortuity. On the other hand, one must admit that the laughing in bursts of three suggests that with the coughing Poe was falling back on an old formula. Still, one must remember Poe the artist who was an inveterate hoaxer, who loved verbal play. A mere thumbing through his collected tales reinforces the impression that he loved nothing better than a good literary hoax or joke. Indeed, Terence Martin convincingly proposes that although Poe’s imagination could be serious, it most often revealed “the artist at play” [Kenyon Review, XXVII (1966), 194-209]. In view of Poe’s “writing personality,” it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that he was amusing himself with this small diversion — and perhaps wondering how many readers would be amused by it as well.

Joseph H. Harkey, Virginia Wesleyan College


Associated Article(s) and Related Material:

  • None


[S:1 - PSDR, 1970]