Text: John E. Reilly, “Poe in Pillory: An Early Version of a Satire by A. J. H. Duganne,” Poe Studies, June 1973, Vol. VI, No. 1, 6:9-12


[page 9:]

Poe in Pillory: An Early Version of a Satire by A. J. H. Duganne

College of the Holy Cross

The Kennikat Press recently reprinted the 1851 edition of Parnassus in Pillory by “Motley Manners, Esquire” (1). It is a satire of approximately fourteen hundred lines written in the vein of A Fable for Critics but inferior in almost every respect to Lowell’s well-known lampoon. Although Parnassus appeared pseudonymously, the identity of “Motley Manners, Esquire,” is no mystery. He was Augustine Joseph Hickey Duganne (1823-1884), a prolific and widely published but minor American writer whose slender reputation has, until the reprinting of Parnassus, rested almost solely upon a book enticed Camps and Prisons (1865), Duganne’s vivid account of his own experiences as a Union officer in the Civil War. Although the authorship of Parnassus is known, what is less widely recognized is that the satire was not, strictly speaking, “first published in 1851,” as the Kennikat editors would have us believe (p. iv). A fragment of an earlier version appeared two years before, in the January 1849 number of Holden’s Dollar Magazine, a New York monthly edited by Charles F. Briggs. The fragment was “Part I” and what proved to be the only installment in a satire which Duganne then called A Mirror for Author by “Motley Manners, Esq” (2).

That A Mirror for Authors and Parnassus in Pillory are versions of the same satire is unmistakable. Of the two hundred thirty-one lines that constitute the 1849 fragment, one hundred eighty-eight reappear in the 1851 edition. This number includes all but two of the seventy lines with which Duganne opened his 1849 satire, thirty-two of the thirty-six lines he devoted to William Cullen Bryant, all ten lines on Fitz-Greene Halleck, another ten on the literati of Boston, thirty-two of thirty-four lines on Longfellow, eight out of eighteen on Lowell, another eight of eleven on Whittier, and all twenty lines on Nathaniel Parker Willis. Duganne did revise some of his material in carrying it over from the fragment to the 1851 edition, but most of the revisions are negligible. Not negligible, however, are two features peculiar to the fragment alone, features which, because they are absent from the Kennikat reprinting, deserve to be exhumed from the pages of Holden’s Dollar Magazine.

One of the features peculiar to the fragment is a passage of twenty-two lines on Edgar Allan Poe, a passage ridiculing Poe both as a poet and as a critic:

With tomahawk upraised for deadly blow,

Behold our literary Mohawk, Poe!

Sworn tyrant he o’er all who sin in verse —

His own the standard, damns he all that’s worse; [column 2:]

And surely not for this shall he be blamed —

For worse than his deserves that it be damned!

Who can so well detect the plagiary’s flaw?

“Set thief to catch thief” is an ancient saw:


Who can so scourge a fool to shreds and slivers?

Promoted slaves oft make the best slave drivers!

Iambic Poe! of tyro bards the terror —

Ego is he — the world his pocket-mirror!


Poe’s nor the worst of bards, though bad he is

Poor man! his worst of sins is synthesis!

Nor is he by great odds the worst of critics —

Only he runs stark mad on analytics:

Give him a dumpling, and he’ll hatch a thesi —

Talk Choctaw to him — he’ll choke with diaeresis;

If he lives long enough, we’ll find, per Hercle

He’ll print the cabula, and square the circle!

The mystic fates alone can tell how often he

Means to dress up old flame in new cacophony




Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society.

It is unlikely that Poe ever saw these lines (3). But if he had, he probably would have countered that it was not he but “Motley Manners” who had dressed up “old flame in new cacophony.” For the charges of critical tyranny, of egotism (perhaps “narcissism” is more appropriate), of a passion for analysis, and of an obsession with plagiarism, as well as the charge that Poe himself was not above pilfering, all had been levelled against him before, some of them repeatedly over the span of more than a decade. Above all, however, Duganne’s caricature of Poe as a “literary Mohawk” had been anticipated by other critics who already had labelled him not only a “scalper” and a “tomahawk man” but specifically “the Comanche of literature” (4). Duganne’s treatment of Poe lacked freshness, but it also lacked something even more essential: good timing. It followed too closely in the wake of Lowell’s devastating, quantitative analysis of Poe in A Fable for Critics, then in print less than three months. Further, by January 1849, Poe’s personal and professional straits had so reduced him that he no longer was a sporting target for any form of abuse. At that moment, less than ten months before his death, Poe was far more to be pitied than to be censured. [page 10:]

The other feature peculiar to the fragment is a series of cartoons accompanying Duganne’s remarks on Bryant, Longfellow, Whittier, Poe, and Willis. The cartoons are the work of F. O. C. Darley, one of the leading illustrators of the period. For Duganne’s text on Bryant, Darley furnished a sketch of a fish. It stands vertically on two legs


Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society.

which extend from its tail, wears a cap, and holds a writing quill at its side. Since there is no allusion to fish in the text, the reader is left to speculate on the appropriateness of the cartoon. Perhaps it represents the kingfish of American poetry, an idea Darley could have interpolated from Duganne’s description of Bryant as “Apollo’s proxy,” “our acknowledged Paixhan” (that is, our heavy artillery, “Paixhan” being an allusion to the ordnance developed by the French general Henri-Joseph Paixhans), and “the king of cis-atlantic gammon” (that is, the king of American humbug). Or perhaps the cartoon represents Bryant as the proverbial big fish in our little literary pond by way of illustrating Duganne’s reduction of “this laureat of our nation” to a “Gulliver — in Lilliput” (5). There is no uncertainty whatsoever about the appropriateness of the remaining four cartoons. Darley’s sketch for Longfellow is a pair of scissors walking on legs attached to its hinge, and it illustrates Duganne’s charge that “Hal” owed his reputation as a poet to the “clipping of old rusty coins,” which is a tepid expression for what Poe had the temerity to call plagiarism (6). Since Duganne confined his remarks




Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society.

[column 2:]

on Whittier to the Quaker poet’s involvement in the Abolition Movement (“Were ‘t not for darkies sure his fame would darkle ”), Darley provided a sketch of a white




Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society.

man and a tattered Black embracing. Inevitably, the cartoon for “our literary Mohawk, Poe,” is an Indian brandishing tomahawk and scalping knife. The last cartoon, for Duganne’s text on Nathaniel Parker Willis, depicts a fashionable fellow dressed in a beaver hat and a closely fitted coat, holding a cane smartly in one hand behind his back and dangling ribboned spectacles idly from the other. This sketch not only captures Duganne’s needling of Willis for his social climbing (“He’s forty-one years old, — in




Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society.

good condition — / And, positively, he has gained ‘position’ ”), but it also reflects Willis’ wide reputation as a dandy and a literary lightweight as well. [page 11:]

Just why Holden’s Dollar Magazine printed no more than “Part I” of A Mirror for Authors is something of a mystery. Duganne was to have a falling-out with the journal later in 1849, aired by Briggs, the editor, in the September issue (7). But there is no evidence that A Mirror for Authors figured in the quarrel; indeed, there were no outward signs of friction early in the year. Holden’s continued to publish other work by Duganne regularly for several months after the fragment appeared. The February issue, where one would expect to find the second installment of the satire offered instead a three-page critical profile of James Fenimore Cooper written by Duganne under his pseudonym “Motley Manners, Esquire” (8); and the March issue carried the first installment of The Atheist; Or, True and False Religion by “Augustine J. H. Duganne,” a novel serialized through July (9).

Perhaps the solution to the mystery of the fragment lies not in Duganne’s relations with Holden’s but in the possibility that he was so dissatisfied with the progress of his satire that he felt he could not proceed without subjecting it to the kind of revamping that was out of the question once the first installment had appeared in print. The possibility of such dissatisfaction suggests itself when we compare the 1849 fragment with the 1851 edition, the one reprinted by the Kennikat Press. Although the completed edition incorporates most of the fragment, it is by no means simply an extension of the fragment. The text projected in 1849 and the text published in 1851 differ vastly with respect to format. At the beginning of both versions, Duganne pretends to be at a loss to organize his attack upon America’s “bards”: they are “so near alike,” he complains, “ ‘tis hard to choose . . . whom to pounce on first.” This complaint notwithstanding, the 1849 fragment manages to pounce first upon seven of the nation’s most prominent poets. Though doubtlessly calculated to attract attention to the initial installment, Duganne’s choice of victims on the basis of prominence was an unpromising structural principle. It concentrated the best moments at the opening of the satire and doomed subsequent installments to the prospect of the desultory treatment of less interesting material. That Duganne seems to have recognized his mistake is suggested by the changes he made in preparing the 1851 edition. Given the opportunity to begin again, he chose a new format, one that with a number of exceptions and several major digressions is loosely spatial in character. The 1851 edition pounces first upon those American “bards who’ve ‘crossed the water,’/ And think their native land earth’s meanest quarter”; it then moves to the poets of Philadelphia, of New York, of Boston, and of New England at large, and finally to those bards of “the boundless, buoyant West!” Within this format, those prominent figures who were crowded into the opening of the 1849 fragment are scattered among more than three dozen poets treated in a text of over fourteen hundred lines, a text to which Duganne appended more than fifty explanatory notes.

Duganne was sufficiently satisfied with the 1851 format of Parnassus not to tamper with it when he prepared still another edition for publication in his Poetical Works, issued by Parry and McMillan of Philadelphia in 1855. Though this new edition contains numerous minor textual adjustments, introduces a handful of fresh victims, and almost doubles the number of explanatory notes, its special [column 2:] interest, at least from the perspective of the 1849 fragment, resides in two references to Poe which, modest though they are, represent Poe’s return to the satire after his complete absence from the 1851 edition and suggest that Duganne’s attitude toward him had mellowed perceptibly since 1849 (10). One of these references, an allusion to “poor Poe,” occurs in Duganne’s note on the Philadelphia magazinist George R. Graham. More generous to the dead Poe than to the living, Graham had risen to his defense in March 1850 by writing and publishing one of the first serious challenges to Rufus Griswold’s notorious attacks upon the character of the man for whom he was serving as literary executor. Duganne’s note recalls Graham’s “exploit” in Poe’s behalf: “Time was when Graham, of magazine memory, was quite a Maecenas of youthful scribblers; but, alas! his glory has departed. The triangular duel between himself and Griswold, and the ghost of poor Poe, was the last exploit of Graham” (11). The other reference to Poe occurs in the text of Duganne’s treatment of Thomas Holley Chivers, a man who had been acquainted with Poe but who proved by no means a loyal friend. Duganne identifies Chivers as a poet “from whose virgin muse/ The graceless Poe stole all that she could lose” (pp. 214-215). That Duanne intended here to mock Chivers rather than to criticize Poe is made clear in an accompanying note: “Thos. H. Chivers, M.D., of Georgia, has written some good rhymes, but is haunted by dead poets, and passes his life in an insane attempt to prove that Poe gained his reputation by plagiarizing from [him]” (p. 222). Duganne had not always been so disposed to dismiss charges of plagiarism against Poe as mere nonsense (“insane”). In the 1849 fragment, it will be recalled, he had identified “our literary Mohawk” as one who could “detect the plagiary’s flaw” because he was himself well versed in the art.

The 1855 edition of Parnassus in Pillory was the last one prepared by Duganne. The satire appeared again as part of his Poetical Works in 1865, but this volume was only a reissue of the unsold sheets of the 1855 edition. Duganne is reported to have been preparing a complete edition of his poetical works, an edition which presumably would have included Parnassus, when death overtook him in 1884 (12). It would be of interest to know whether these preparations involved updating what was by then a genuinely old-fashioned satire or whether it was Duganne’s intention to revive one of those versions of Parnassus that had created more shudders than tremors when it pounced upon the American literary scene a generation earlier.



(1) Augustine J. H. Duganne, Parnassus in Pillory. A Satire. By Motley Manners, Esquire (Port Washington, New York: Kennikae Press, 1971).

(2) Holden’s Dollar Magazine, 3 (January 1849), 20-22. I do not wish ro convey the impression that the existence of the fragment is not known. Mary E. Phillips (Edgar Allan Poe the Man, [page 12:] Philadelphia: Winston, 1926, 11, 1370-1371) reprints twelve lines from A Mirror for Authors as well as two of the five accompanying Darley cartoons (all of which will be examined later in this paper). Curiously, Mrs. Phillips makes no mention of Duganne in the course of her brief discussion of the fragment, but her caption to the two cartoons identifies “Motley Manners, Esq.,” as “Joseph H. Duganne, 1823-1895” (sic]. Killis Campbell (The Mind of Poe and Other Studies, 1933, reprint ea., New York: Russell and Russell, 1962, p. 59) and Sidney Moss (Poe’s Literary Battles, Durham, N.C.: Duke Univ. Press, 1963, p. 243) reprint the first twelve of Duganne’s twenty-two lines on Poe in the fragment, but neither identifies Duganne as the author. Moreover, Campbell, Moss, and Phillips fail to note any connection between the fragment and the 1851 edition of the satire.

(3) Poe wrote to George Eveleth in June 1849 that he had “occasionally” heard of Holden’s but that he had “never seen a number of it.” See John Ward Ostrom, ed., The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe (1948; reprint ed., New York: Gordian Press, 1966), 11, 449.

(4) Campbell, p. 59, notes that it was a contributor to the Talisman and Odd Fellow’s Magazine, 1 (September 1846), 105, who called Poe “the Comanche of literature.”

(5) Less likely, but more cleverly, perhaps Darley somehow distilled from Duganne’s text that Bryant was a carping kind of person and, by way of a visual pun, cast him as a literate member of the carp family.

(6) Though it is inferior in almost every respect to A Fable for Critics, Duganne’s satire does manage to rise above Lowell’s in its treatment of Longfellow. Where Lowell handles his friend and Cambridge neighbor gently, Duganne sternly indicts him with mismanaging his talents by failing to engage reality:

Cast off thy dressing-gown and gird thy loins —

And learn what Deity on song enjoins:

Thou hast portrayed ideal wrongs and woes —

Now, by my harp! canst real wrongs disclose?

Thou hast drawn tears for miseries long forgotten —

Canst thou find nothing in our time that’s rotten?

(7) Holden’s, 4 (September 1849), 573-574. The falling-out developed over Duganne’s charge that Holden’s had not paid him for work he had completed and Briggs’ countercharge that

Duganne had not met his deadlines for installments of a novel serialized in the magazine.

(8) Holden’s, 3 (February 1849), 89-91.

(9) The Atheist appeared in the March, May, June and July numbers of Holden’s. The five chapters of the concluding installment in July bear no author’s name because they were not written by Duganne. According to Briggs in the September airing of the falling-out, Duganne had not met his deadline and Holden’s was compelled to have someone else complete the novel.

(10) There is a third reference to Poe in the 1855 edition, but it is so slight as to be almost negligible: in one of his notes (p. 217), Duganne identifies Thomas Dunn English as a person “whom Poe so mercilessly noticed as ‘Dunn Brown.’ “

(11) Duganne, Poetical Works (1855), p. 219. The March 1850 defense of Poe was not, in fact, Graham’s “last exploit.” He published his “Genius and Characteristics of the Late Edgar Allan Poe” in February 1854. That Duganne failed to note this suggests an earlier date of composition for at least this portion of the 1855 edition of Parnassus in Pillory.

(12) John Filmer, “A Forgotten Poet of Freedom,” The Public, 16 (13 June 1913), 569. Both a memoir and a eulogy, Filmer’s essay (pp. 566-569) was an abortive effort to revive public interest in Duganne.


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