Text: Alexander Hammond, “Further Notes on Poe’s Folio Club Tales,” Poe Studies, December 1975, Vol. VIII, No. 2, 8:38-42


[page 38:]

Further Notes on Poe’s Folio Club Tales

Washington State University

In planning an edition of Poe’s 1833 Folio Club collection, I have found modifications to my “Preliminary Notes” on this matter necessary (1). My purpose here is to examine more fully an issue posed by the late publication date of “Raising the Wind; or, Diddling Considered as One of the Exact Sciences,” to alter my argument about the status of “Loss of Breath. A Tale a la Blackwood” in the framework, to report new information bearing on the relationship of “Slope — A Fable” and “King Pest the First” to their Folio Club authors, and to suggest perspectives for future critical studies of the Folio Club stories as a group.


In 1969, Burton R. Pollin advanced a list of reasons for rejecting Claude Richard’s identification of “Raising the Wind; or, Diddling Considered as One of the Exact Sciences” as Mr. Snap’s story in the Folio Club framework (2). Pollin’s last point — “The failure of the poverty-stricken Poe ever to retain for years or months a publishable piece” — still raises a relevant question about my own version of Richard’s case: why would Poe delay until 1843 the sale of a story composed prior to May 1833? Contrary to Pollin’s assertion, however, several of the Folio Club tales were retained “for years” before appearing in print, and one such story, I would argue, must have been Mr. Snap’s.

The eleven-story Folio Club collection was completed by the spring of 1833; separate printings of a number of its tales (“Slope — A Fable,” “King Pest the First,” “Epimanes,” and “Lionizing” are examples) were postponed two years or more while Poe patiently waited for Carey, Lea, & Blanchard to issue the volume as a whole (3). But even after May 1835, when the contents of this collection began appearing regularly in the Southern Literary Messenger, two of its tales were still withheld from publication. Poe sold a total of fourteen short stories to the Messenger in this period, the last printed in its April 1836 number. Because these fourteen titles include reprinted forms of all the author’s previously published fiction, and because his editorial position on the magazine lasted through the end of 1836, we know Poe chose not to sell two tales definitely in his files in August 1835 when he announced a sixteen-story Folio Club collection and still there, together with another, perhaps newly written piece, in September 1836 when he projected a seventeen-story version of this work.4 One of these three stories was obviously “Slope — A Fable,” part of the manuscript remains from the 1833 collection; another must have been Mr. Snap’s tale, for none of the Messenger stories seems even marginally appropriate for this caricature of John Neal to deliver in the Folio Club symposium. During 1837 Poe published only two tales other than the aborted installments of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym: “Slope A Fable” and “don Jung, the Mystic” (“Mystification”). While the latter could well be the third story in question here, it too is inappropriate for Mr. Snap, as are Poe’s tales of 1838, when [column 2:] the appearance of “Ligeia” finally brings the total of his published short stories to seventeen. Whatever its title, Mr. Snap’s story is thus an anomaly in Poe’s canon, a Folio Club tale which was not printed in the Messenger and which remained unsold even during what must have been the financially lean years immediately following his abandonment of the symposium framework.

The obvious weakness of “Raising the Wind” in isolation from that framework (Pollin justly calls it a “potboiler”) is consistent with the above evidence. Early in his career, the author could well have found this story difficult to sell, and certainly it would be an unlikely if not embarrassing piece for Poe as editor to print in the Messenger, in Graham’s, or even in Burton’s unless particularly desperate for material. While we can only speculate about the reasons why the story would be resurrected in 1843, Poe’s precarious financial situation at that time seems more than sufficient cause (5). He must have seen in the Philadelphia Saturday Courier an opportunity to realize ready cash from his old Folio Club story, for “Raising the Wind” was submitted to that newspaper shortly after its undoubtedly profitable serialization of his 1843 prize tale “The Gold Bug.” Pollin notes that Kenney’s farce “Raising the Wind” was first performed that year in Philadelphia on 9 September and suggests “this probably led to [Poe’s] quickly penning the narrative essay for rapid publication by the . . . Courier in October.” But a recently published letter shows the newspaper had possession of the manuscript by 26 August 1843. In it Poe asks the Courier’s editor to advance to Mrs. Clemm payment for an “article” under consideration, prefacing the request by claiming to have left town for business in Richmond, thereby stranding his family for three weeks without funds. A postscript states he had recently received twenty dollars for “The Black Cat,” adding “the article you have is worth as much — being longer &, I think, better [sic].” Poe is indulging here in emotional blackmail if not a rather desperate “diddle” (6), a sadly appropriate means for selling this particular story. The case for linking “Raising the Wind” to Mr. Snap must rest upon internal evidence, but the assumption that Poe withheld the tale from publication for ten years is not inconsistent with either the textual history of the Folio Club collection or the available facts about the story’s publication in the Courier.


In suggesting that only a section of “Loss of Breath” (1835) was included in Poe’s collection, I argued that the satiric, bantering tone of much of this story was inappropriate for Mr. Blackwood Blackwood, whose contribution should imitate rather than overtly parody the standard Blackwood’s “article,” typically a tale of pseudo-scientific terror. The basic assumption here I think still valid: Poe’s narrative structure dictates that the tales be plausible, if highly mannered, examples of the literary styles implied by the club members’ type-names and descriptions. But the view of Blackwood’s fiction in this argument is arbitrarily narrow. As Michael Allen documents, the magazine actually featured three general kinds of fiction: burlesques; tales of sensation; and stories of working-class criminals (7). Whether or not the brief appearance of the mail-robber W ——— constitutes an allusion to the third category [page 39:] here, “Loss of Breath” as a whole reads like a composite of the first two types of story — in effect, “Le Revenant” or “The Diary of a Late Physician” as they might have been written by an author like Robert Macnish (8). The revisions that created this tale from “A Decided Loss” (1832) suggest a deliberate attempt to emphasize this composite quality, for Poe added not only an account of the hero’s sensations (the gallows scene and immediate aftermath) characteristic of Blackwood’s tales of terror but also a comic encounter with a grotesque (the scene with Windenough in the tomb) recalling the subject and manner of the magazine’s burlesque pieces — particularly of tales like “The Man with the Nose” (August 1826), “Man with the Mouth” (May 1828), and “The Man Mountain” (March 1829), all by Macnish. Because the resulting story takes the reader on a tour of the bizarre landscape of Blackwood’s fiction generally, it probably did serve, even though closer to explicit parody than any other Folio Club story except “Lionizing,” as Mr. Blackwood Blackwood’s tale.

Internal evidence also suggests Poe revised the tale with this club member’s role in mind. In its 1835 form “Loss of Breath” features the parallel experiences of two inverse doubles (9), the short, “corpulent,” breathless narrator of “A Decided Loss” and a new figure, his “lath-like antagonist Windenough, cursed with a “superfluity of breath.” When this tale is read as Mr. Blackwood Blackwood’s, its plot allegorically explains his doubled name as well as the role of Windenough, who has long been recognized as a caricature of John Wilson, Blackwood’s editor and chief critic (10). The story’s narrator Lacko’breath mutely suffers through a sequence of outlandish experiences typical of Blackwood’s fiction, the last of which involves a confrontation with its wordy editor in a tomb. The editor is rescued from his moribund condition, comically brought on by excessive “windiness,” when he agrees to share his extra “respiration” with Lacko’breath, implicitly providing the latter with the means of telling (that is, publishing) the story of his adventures. The “united strength” of their “resuscitated voices” produces “subterranean noises” much noticed and debated in the press, consequently saving both characters from oblivion. Poe’s additions thus create a relatively transparent allegory attributing Blackwood’s journalistic success to its tales, or rather to its combination of “noises” from a typical protagonist of its fiction and from Wilson, presumably in his role as critic and editor Christopher North (11). This allegory is recapitulated in Mr. Blackwood Blackwood’s implied authorial relationship to this tale. If this character represents, as his name suggests, the double “voice” of Blackwood’s journalism, then half of this voice narrates a retrospective story about joining with its complement, a union creating, as it were, the whole Mr. Blackwood Blackwood. In the Folio Club framework, the narrative structure of “Loss of Breath” thus foreshadows that of a later, more fully developed double tale, “William Wilson.”

Poe’s literary game here may have another twist. The compact between Windenough and Lacko’breath involves a mysterious third party, unnamed because the narrator does not wish “at this moment” to incur his “resentment.” This underground collaborator is probably the devil,12 who sups with the Folio Club, thus listening to “Loss of Breath” at the “moment”-it is read, and who also appears in various [column 2:] guises in other tales contributed to the symposium: “Bon-Bon” (the devil’s own story), “Slope — A Fable,” “The Duc de L’Omelette,” and perhaps “Metzengerstein” and “King Pest the First,” if only by allusion (13). The implication that the devil had a hand in Blackwood’s success seems consistent with the introduction to the 1833 collection, the narrator of which damns the Folio Club as a “diabolical association” plotting to “abolish Literature, subvert the Press, and overturn the Government of Nouns and Pronouns.” Lacking the burlesque criticism from Poe’s framework, however, we can only speculate about such traces of the devil’s masquerade in its design.


The same limitation hampers full explanation of the masquerades played by the “very little man in a black coat with very black eyes” and the “stout gentleman who admired Sir Walter Scott,” those Folio Club members who contribute “Slope — A Fable” and “King Pest the First” respectively. Evidently Poe expected the former to be recognized as a type of the mysterious stranger, an avatar of the nameless “man in black” (an intimate with a club of authors) who befriends the Chinese philosopher in Goldsmith’s Citizen of the World (14) and who then reappears as the title character of “The Little Man in Black” in Paulding’s and the Irving brothers’ Salmagundi (15). Poe seems to effect another turn of the screw in this sequence by making his character “very little” with “very black eyes.” The point of this literary game? Perhaps a sly nomination of Tales of the Folio Club as worthy successor to these well-known satires. However that may be, such allusions are not inconsistent with the probability that Poe’s mysterious stranger represents the author himself. The “man in black” in Citizen of the World serves an analogous function by representing Goldsmith as a character in his own fiction. More significantly, the suffering of Salmagundi’s “little man in black,” a sensitive, misunderstood outsider who eventually starves to death from community neglect, suggests Poe chose this mask to evoke a sardonic correlative for his own plight during the early 1830’s, if only as a painful private joke (16).

With the “stout gentleman who admired Sir Walter Scott,” Poe was apparently alluding to a quizzing exchange between Scott and Irving concerning “The Stout Gentleman,” a story the latter author published in Bracebridge Hall in 1822. During that year, Scott had twice appeared as the still-incognito “Author of Waverley” in comic prefaces to The Fortunes of Nigel and Peveril of the Peak; in the second of these prefaces, ostensibly letters between the novels’ respective editors, the Reverend Dr. Dryasdust reports a visit from the anonymous writer (if only in a dream), describes him as a tall, bulky, large-nosed man dressed for travel in boots, great coat, and suit of snuff-brown, and then adds, “It struck me forcibly, as I gazed on this portly person, that he realized, in my imagination, the Stout Gentleman in No. II [sic], who afforded such subject of varying speculation to our most amusing and elegant Utopian traveller, Master Geoffrey Crayon.” Scott thus glosses Irving’s anticlimactic tale as an episode in the popular game of guessing the identity of the “Author of Waverley,” amusingly supplying in the process a full view of “the stout gentleman in No. 13” of whom Irving’s narrator [page 40:] could only report a single glimpse, and that the broad bottom of his “drab breeches.” Irving takes up the joke in Tales of a Traveller (1824), where Geoffrey Crayon observes that not he but his friend the nervous gentleman unwittingly enjoyed the honor of sharing an inn with “The Great Unknown.” The announcement of the stout gentleman’s identity has made Crayon’s friend a lion among local bluestockings but also “ten times more nervous”; furthermore, his renewed efforts to locate the great man’s “portly personage” have failed because “the features he had caught a glimpse of seem common to the whole race of stout gentleman.”

That Poe draws upon this exchange seems certain, for Dryasdust’s portly visitor drinks deeply and rehearses defenses of his historical novels in preparation for assuming membership in the Roxburgh Club, a literary society of “unerring judges of old wine and old books . . . to whom, in the capacity of skilful antiquaries, the investigation of truth is an especial duty.” The Folio Club, of course, is also a body of critics whose dinner menus include, as it were, both wine and manuscripts (at its meetings a “superior morceau “ is selected from among the members’ contributions),l7 but the implications of this correspondence for the 1833 framework are by no means obvious. If Poe’s stout gentleman is identified as Scott himself, then his description becomes redundant and violates the pattern established for other Folio Club members — for example, “Mr. Rouge-et-Noir who admired Lady Morgan” cannot be, on the basis of his sex alone, the author whom he admires. As I have noted elsewhere, Irving may be described as a “stout gentleman who admired Sir Walter Scott.” And certainly “King Pest the First” seems to illustrate more plausibly how Irving might adapt Scott’s manner in the historical romance than Scott’s manner per se (18). Because Scott died in 1832, by coincidence the year of Irving’s much celebrated return to America, Poe may be offering his reader a comic image of an Irving who has assumed the physical appearance as well as the literary manner of his late friend, or perhaps ever a reincarnation of “The Great Unknown” in the person of the American writer.

However Poe may have developed such options, clearly the stout gentleman’s bloodlines include Irving and Scott but not, insofar as I can determine, Benjamin Disraeli. I stress the point because several critics have argued “King Pest the First” functions in the Folio Club context as a parody of the “Palace of Wines” episode in Disraeli’s Vivian Grey.’9 The claim is dubious on its face because the episode in question is, if anything, even more broadly comic and satiric than Poe’s own adaptation of it. Furthermore, there is no substantial evidence that Poe expected his reader to recognize the impact of Vivian Grey on this story: certainly such knowledge seems irrelevant to perceiving the tale’s political implications, its thematic relationship to the symposium framework, or its appropriateness for the stout gentleman. Lambert Wilmer recalls of Poe that “among prose writers, Ben. D’Israeli was his model” during the early 1830’s, testimony amply supported by the many echoes of that author’s novels in the Folio Club collection.20 The Disraeli borrowing in “King Pest the First” is analogous to Poe’s use of The Young Duke in “The Duc de L’Omelette” or of Bulwer’s “Too Handsome for Anything” in “Lionizing”: in each instance, we have a source, not a target for parody.


As these notes indicate, much work remains to be done before Poe’s 1833 experiment and its place in his art will be adequately understood. The textual history of the Folio Club project, which I have examined at length elsewhere, strongly implies that Poe began writing fiction with a sequence of stories designed for some form of the symposium framework rather than for separate publication; that the 1833 collection is the product of an evolution in which “The Bargain Lost” and “A Decided Loss” underwent major changes and “Epimanes” replaced “A Tale of Jerusalem”; that among the early tales composed after 1833 certainly “Berenice,” “Morella,” and “Hans Phaall” were conceived independently of the Folio Club design while the eleven-story collection was awaiting publication by Carey, Lea, & Blanchard; and that the sixteen- and seventeen-story versions of this work existed primarily as never-completed proposals to publishers (21). These findings suggest that the term “Folio Club tale” is best limited to stories known to have been included in the 1833 collection or some earlier stage thereof and that the framework of this same collection is a necessary context for understanding the relevant early states of its eleven stories. We very much need, I think, additional critical studies of individual Folio Club stories based on the latter conclusion.

G. R. Thompson’s reading of “Metzengerstein” offers a useful model for studies of the satiric strategies of these tales: by recognizing that the narrator in this story represents the voice of a character in the 1833 framework, Thompson is able to show how this persona’s handling of his story materials constitutes a satiric commentary on its Folio Club author and on the literary mode in which he writes (22). Similarly close attention to the narrative structure of other Folio Club tales would prevent, I think, reductive readings of them as simple parodies of their sources, a characteristic that flaws James Southall Wilson’s “The Devil Was In It” (23). Poe’s use of sources in the collection is hardly this straightforward: the tale contributed by the caricature of N. P. Willis, for example, represents not Willis’ manner per se but rather the kind of story he might write if imitating yet another author, Lady Morgan. And Poe’s descriptions of his project, after all, avoid the transfer of the term “burlesque” from the dub members’ criticism to their tales, which he variously labels original, arabesque, bizarre and whimsical, even racy. While “most” of Poe’s early stories and implicitly all of the Folio Club tales are “intended for half-banter, half-satire,” only “Lionizing” and “Loss of Breath” are singled out by Poe as “satires properly speaking” (24). Clearly Poe thought of his Folio Club tales as relatively complex artifacts, difficult even for him to categorize. Studies of particular tales should analyze them first, I think, as the expressions of individualized characters within a larger story, second as literary imitations with comic and satiric implications (25). Even in “Lionizing” and “Loss of Breath,” the two tales in this collection closest to obvious parodies of their extrinsic sources, Poe maintains the proprieties of his frame story, keeping intact the masks of the characters who narrate the tales by not allowing them to grow self-conscious of their compositions as satires per se.

When Poe proposed a seventeen-story version of the Folio Club collection to Harrison Hall of Philadelphia, [page 41:] he described the tales in it as follows: “They are of a bizarre and generally whimsical character, and were originally written to illustrate a large work ‘On the Imaginative Faculties.’” While the tide Poe gives this “large work” was almost certainly the creation of the moment, it does suggest a particularly fruitful perspective on his 1833 collection that complements interpretation of the work as a satiric anatomy of contemporary fiction. Poe’s framework presents stories that are by definition illustrations of the creative faculties of their authors. It sandwiches these stories, which we must see as artifacts written for a particular audience, between the counter-pointed perspectives of author and critic. We do no violence to the Folio Club collection by saying that it is about the creation and interpretation of fiction (the fact that the inset tales themselves represent a medley of different approaches to the genre reinforces this point). The individual tales in the work can be read, I think, as explorations of these concerns, for many repeat versions of the framework’s author-text-critic paradigm.

The opening tale, “Raising the Wind,” defines man as a diddler, a trickster who creates illusions by manipulating appearances and his victims’ preconceptions. Such a type of the author is counter-pointed against the author as dreamer and seer in “The Visionary,” the second tale in the collection. In both stories, these figures create or manipulate artifacts and environments that must be interpreted, by the diddlers’ victims in the first case, by the puzzled narrator in the second. Indeed, the opening tale can be read as a mirror image of the framework, complete with introduction, a sequence of “authors” (the diddlers), a sampling o, their “fictions,” and a description of the responses to their creations. “Lionizing,” the last tale in the work, features a story about the composition and reception of a treatise on Nosology and can be similarly analyzed as a mirror image of the frame, albeit a more limited one. Equivalents of the author-text-critic pattern are also found in “Bon-Bon” (Satan plays critic to the philosopher’s book), in “MS. Found in a Bottle” (the narrator puzzles over a single word, “DISCOVERY,” which appears almost spontaneously from his dabblings on the sail), in “King Pest” (the court of grotesques meets, like the Folio Club, for critical purposes, although the object of analysis is wine), and in “Metzengerstein” (the youthful baron must interpret a picture and a set of events manipulated in some mysterious way by his rival who signs his work with initials). The last tale on this list, I might note, repeats the paradigm within its larger structure as well, for its narrator plays a somewhat dense critic to the materials he receives from history just as Metzengerstein performs as interpreter of the events themselves.

As one might expect, the dearest use of this structural pattern is in “Siope — A Fable,” the tale contributed by the little man in black, that is, probably by Poe himself. In it, the narrator hears a fable told by a Demon and obliquely describes his reaction to it. The fable itself is about the Demon’s manipulation of a landscape “read” by the man on the rock. The words that appear on this rock directly reflect the landscape’s changing appearance, suggesting the phenomenal world is almost literally a page on which the Demon can write at will. We have here, I would suggest, an allegory radically extending the boundaries of fiction. Reality itself is seen as a kind of text created, in this case [column 2:] at least, by a hidden, malevolent author. Man can face different, progressively more instable versions of this text; he cannot, however, tolerate a reality akin to a blank page, returning only “silence” for his efforts to seek meaning in it. It is appropriate, I think, that Poe makes this a story told by a mocking demon and retold by a narrator; the effect is to raise the possibility that the Demon’s fable, or even the narrator’s story about this story, may be fictive, leaving the reader faced with a text whose indeterminacy recalls the instability if not the silence of the landscape described within the tale itself.

The concern with fictions and their interpretation is general enough in the Folio Club tales to justify seeing “Siope — A Fable” as a central thematic statement for the work as a whole, which explores, I think, the basic analogue between world and text in a variety of ways. This tale and ethers like “MS. Found in a Bottle” suggest that a reader’s expectation of meaning and pattern in a text is comparable to, if not one and the same with, the mind’s thirst for signification in the phenomena of “reality.” Poe elaborates on this thirst in “Raising the Wind,” where the diddlers’ hoaxes work because their victims participate in creating the very illusions that entrap them, seeking out a pattern in props and events that conforms to their expectations of what such appearances should represent. That interpretations of texts can produce versions of their messages equally contingent upon a reader’s preconceptions is nicely illustrated by a scene in “King Pest.” Legs and Hugh see the words “No Chalk” (that is, no credit) in a tavern “scored over the door-way by means of that very identical mineral whose presence they purported to deny.” The writing materials obviously convey a message to the narrator unintended by the pub keeper and logically destructive to the text. And the sailors, who cannot read, create yet another message from “a certain twist in the formation of the letters” that warns them to flee. We have here a remarkable image of the collection’s basic paradigm. The text is seen as a system of empty signs, filled in totally different ways when processed by the pattern-seeking consciousnesses of the sailors and the narrator, that relates author to reader only by marking off a common boundary of their discontinuous worlds. As an image of the literary process, it suggests something of the skepticism underlying much of Poe’s playfulness in this collection; as an analogue for man’s epistemological relationship with his world (and its “author”), it offers a more disturbing vision than “Slope” for the Demon’s several landscapes do manage to communicate to the man on the rock, if the message is only the absence of message.

As a half-bantering, half-satiric intention implies, Poe began writing fiction from an ironically detached, critical perspective. A reconstruction of his first major work of fiction suggests that Poe’s imitations of current writers and modes of the genre were part of a larger structure which made fiction and the literary process itself into its central concerns. The shared paradigm found in frame and tales, the juxtaposition of author and interpreter across a text. allowed Poe to explore, however comically, the basic analogue of world and text, of epistemology and hermeneurics, that emerges when one moves this paradigm out of a strictly literary context. Not only does this approach provide a means of establishing the internal relationships among the stories in the Folio Club framework, but it also [page 42:] suggests a perspective on Poe’s later tales that needs further exploration, for the author-text-critic paradigm becomes central to the structure of his mature fiction.



(1) Alexander Hammond, “A Reconstruction of Poe’s 1833 Tales of the Folio Club: Preliminary Notes,” Poe Studies, 5 (1972), 2 5-32.

(2) Pollin, “Poe’s ‘Diddling’; the Source of Title and Tale,” Southern Literary Journal, 2 (1969), 106-111. Claude Richard, “Poe and the Yankee Hero: An Interpretation of ‘Diddling Considered as One of the Exact Sciences,’” Mississippi Quarterly, 21 (1968), 93-109. Richard suggests the Philadelphia Saturday Courier first received “Raising the Wind” with the tales Poe submitted to its 1831 contest, held the story until 1843, then returned it to the author for revisions before publication; a recently published letter proves this hypothesis false — see note 6.

(3) For an overview of Poe’s career during this period, see Floyd Stovall, Edgar Poe the Poet (Charlottesville: Univ. of Virginia Press, 1969), pp. 18-63. For a convenient list of the printings of Poe’s early tales, see bibliographic notes to The Complete Poems and Stories of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. A. H. Quinn and Edward H. O’Neill (New York: A. A. Knopf, 1958). The author’s “Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of the Folio Club: The Evolution of a Lost Book,” forthcoming in The University of Pennsylvania Library Chronicle, provides a detailed textual history of the collection.

(4) Southern Literary Messenger, 1 (Aug. 1835), 716, and The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. John Ward Ostrom, 2nd. ed. (New York: Gordian Press, 1966), I, 103-104.

(5) Arthur H. Quinn, Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography (New York: Appleton-Century, 1941), Ch. XIII, particularly pp. 357, 377-395; Letters, 1, 225-227, 237.

(6) John W. Ostrom, “Fourth Supplement to The Letters of Poe,” American Literature, 45 (1974), 521-522, prints Poe’s note, identifies its subject as “Raising the Wind,” and suggests the Richmond trip “probably never took place.”

(7)Poe and the British Magazine Tradition (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1969), pp. 31-32.

(8) Poe’s knowledge of Macnish, who wrote his Blackwood’s tales under the pen name “A Modern Pythagorean,” is established by the influence of “The Metempsychosis” (May 1826) on “Bon-Bon.”

(9) G. R. Thompson, Poe’s Fiction: Romantic Irony in the Gothic Tales (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1973), p. 48.

(10) Thompson, p. 48, summarizes the evidence supporting this identification in Margaret Alterton, Origins of Poe’s Critical Theory Univ. of Iowa Humanistic Studies, 2 (Iowa City: Univ. of Iowa Press, 1925), p. 12, and in Stephen L. Mooney, “Poe’s Grand Design: A Study of Theme and Unity in the Tales,” Diss. Tennessee 1962, pp. 116-117. Poe may be punning on the name “Blackwood” in Mr. Lacko’breath’s assertion that Windenough is the “originator of . . . Lombardy-poplars,” a variety of the black poplar.

(11) This allegory thus renders dramatically the formula for journalistic “celebrity” Poe used to explain the success of magazines like Blackwood’s to T. W. White in his well-known letter of 30 April 1835 — Letters, 1, 57-58. If Poe had a particular Blackwood’s writer in mind for Lacko’breath, it could be William Maginn, the Irish author of the Morgan O’Doherty satires as well as of “The Man in the Bell.” If so, then Poe’s allegory would have a roughly factual basis, for Maginn’s work for the magazine before 1825 did much to establish its character. For a discussion of Maginn’s and Wilson’s shaping of Blackwood’s, see Miriam M. H. Thrall, Rebellious Fraser’s: Nol Yorke’s Magazine in the Days of Maginn, Thackery, and Carlyle (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1934).

(12) Marie Bonaparte, The Life and Works of Edgar Allan Poe: A Psycho-Analytic Interpretation, trans. John Rodker (London: Hogarth Press, 1971), p. 404, makes this identification. It accords with Poe’s revisions, which delete the following claims by the narrator of “A Decided Loss”: “I had heard of Peter Schlemil [Adelbert Chamisso’s title character sells his shadow to the devil], but I did not believe in him until now. I had heard of compacts with the devil, and would gladly have accepted his assistance, but knew not in what manner to proceed, having studied very little [column 2:] of diablerie.” In “Loss of Breath,” on the contrary, Lacko’breath has apparently dabbled in such matters.

(13) Imagery in Metzengerstein associates the horse with the devil; in “King Pest the First,” Hugh Tarpaulin balks at honoring “Death,” which he subsequently describes as “drinking the health of the Devil.” William Goldhurst, “Poe’s Multiple King Pest: A Source Study,” Tulane Studies in English, 20 (1972), 107121, explores the imagery of hell in the latter tale.

(14) See Letters XXVI to XXX of Citizen of the World. Arthur Friedman, ea., Collected Works of Oliver Goldsmith (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), 11, 112, identifies the “man in black” a, Goldsmith himself.

(15) William L. Hedges, Washington Irving: An American Study 1802-1832 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1965), pp. 8, 54-56, details the connections between Irving’s “little man in black” and Goldsmith’s character.

(16) Extremely poor during this period, Poe liked to characterize himself as an American author ignored by a public indifferent to native productionsC see “Letter to B “ (1831, 1836) in The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe ( 1902; rpt., New York: AMS Press, 1965), VI, xxxvi, and “THE FOLIO CLUB” (1833) in John C. French, “Poe and the Baltimore Saturday Visiter,” Modern Language Notes, 33 (1918), 262

(17) Citing “Bon-Bon” and precedents for the Folio Club format in Plato’s Symposium and Goldsmith’s Retaliation, Stephen Mooney in “Poe’s Grand Design,” pp. 22-23, 36-42, argues that one of the controlling metaphors in the collection was probably a theme of “eating as knowing,” the “conceit that people consume each other when they share an exchange of minds at dinner.” The mirror image of the Folio Club’s critical activities in King Pest’s drinking society, which devotes itself to analysis, “deep research and accurate investigation” of “wines, ales, and liqueurs,” offers strong support to Mooney’s argument.

(18) I am grateful to Professor Patrick F. Quinn for calling my attention to the curious doublings that emerge from the analysis in my “Preliminary Notes.” “The Duc de L’Omelette,” “King Pest the First,” and “Epimanes” are grouped together in the collection as the creations of members who admire other writers. We have here a pattern of literary alter egos, authors who imitate similar but more famous counterparts of a different nationality: thus, Willis and Lady Morgan, Irving and Scott, Mordecai Noah and Horace SmithC the last apparently a connection arbitrary to Poe. These formal pairings are foreshadowed by similar doubles figuring in stories earlier in the sequence: Neal and Bentham in “Raising the Wind,” Moore and Byron in “The Visionary,” and perhaps Maginn and Wilson in “Loss of Breath.”

(19) Ruth L. Hudson, “Poe and Disraeli,” American Literature, 8 (1937), 402-406, and Claude Richard, “Les Contes du Folio Club et la Vocation Humoristique d’Edgar Allan Poe,” Configuration Critique d’Edgar Allan Poe (Paris: Minard, 1969), pp. 82-87. See Goldhurst, “Poe’s Multiple King Pest,” for a protest against these views of Poe’s use of Vivian Grey.

(20) Lambert A. Wilmer, Merlin: Together with Recollections of Edgar A. Poe, ed. T. O. Mabbott (New York: Scholars Facsimiles, 1941), p. 31.

(21) “Poe’s Tales of the Folio Club: The Evolution of a Lost Book.” 22 Thompson, pp. 55-56, 61-67; Benjamin F. Fisher, “Poe’s ‘Metzengerstein’: Not a Hoax,” American Literature, 42 (1971), 487494, argues against reading even the first version of this tale satirically. His case ignores the presence of Mr. Horrible Dictu in the Folio Club framework.

(23)American Mercury, 24 (1931), 215-220.

(24) Letters, I, 55, 103; French, “Poe and the Visiter,” 262; and Letters, I, 84.

(25) Future studies of “MS. Found in a Bottle” should redefine its relationship to the Folio Club framework in light of Hans-Joachim Lang and Benjamin Lease, “The Authorship of Symzonia, The Case for Nathaniel Ames,” New England Quarterly, 48 (1975), 241-252, and George H. Soule, Jr., “Another Source for Poe: Trelawny’s The Adventures of a Younger Son,” Poe Studies, 8 (1975), 35-37. Similar studies of “Epimanes” should consult Stuart and Susan Levine, “History Myth, Fable, and Satire: Poe’s Use of Jacob Bryant,” ESQ, 21 (4th Quarter, 1975), 197-214.


Associated Article(s) and Related Material:

  • None


[S:0 - PS, 1975]