Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott (E. A. Poe), “The Devil in the Belfry,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. II: Tales and Sketches (1978), pp. 362-375 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 362, continued:]


This is one of the better grotesques. On the surface it is an extravaganza — Poe called it that in the first publication — a bit of harmless buffoonery, unmarred by repulsive elements. It obviously makes fun of the weighty German scholarship of the time. Yet it has an undercurrent of thought; the effects of discords on the sensitive [page 363:] listener were serious matters for Poe, who was to rework the ending of this story in the final stanza of “The Bells.”

The sources from which Poe drew the materials of the farrago have now been rather completely identified. He combined familiar elements of diablerie from his minor contemporaries with a curious fancy of Thomas Carlyle, whose Sartor Resartus was first published in Fraser’s Magazine between November 1833 and August 1834.

In Book II, chapter IX, Professor Teufelsdröckh is quoted:

Beautiful it was to sit there, as in my Skyey Tent, musing and meditating; on the high table-land, in front of the Mountains . . . And then to fancy . . . the straw-roofed Cottages, wherein stood many a Mother baking bread, with her children round her: — all hidden and protectingly folded up in the valley-folds; yet there and alive, as sure as if I beheld them. Or to see, as well as fancy, the nine Towns and Villages, that lay round my mountain-seat, which, in still weather, were wont to speak to me (by their steeple-bells) with metal tongue; and, in almost all weather, proclaimed their vitality by repeated Smoke-clouds; whereon, as in a culinary horologe, I might read the hour of the day. For it was the smoke of cookery, as kind housewives, at morning, midday, eventide, were boiling their husbands’ kettles; and ever a blue pillar rose up into the air, successively or simultaneously, from each of the nine, saying, as plainly as smoke could say: Such and such a meal is getting ready here. Not uninteresting! For you have the whole Borough, with all its love-makings and scandal-mongeries, contentions and contentments, as in miniature, and could cover it all with your hat.*

There are other analogies in a story by Dr. Robert Macnish in Blackwood’s, October 1826, called “The Barber of Gottingen,” where the devil compelled a college barber to shave him, ascended into a high tower, and pulled somebody’s nose. A more serious and remote source may be in “The Man in the Bell” by William Maginn in Blackwood’s, November 1821, where the hero, shut in a tower and made delirious by the chimes, fancies he sees demons in the belfry. Poe mentioned Maginn’s story in a letter to Thomas W. White, April 30, 1835.

As a locale Poe chose a sleepy town of phlegmatic Pennsylvania [page 364:] Dutchmen to be plagued by his mischievous goblin. The local inhabitants are clearly Pennsylvanians of German ancestry, but they are very like the New York Dutchmen (whose ancestors came from Holland) of Washington Irving and the lesser Knickerbockers.

Jean-Paul Weber has pointed out with what detail Poe worked out what may be called the pictorial allegory of his story.§ The whole village is built like a clock, surrounded by the hills as a case. There are sixty houses, like the minutes of an hour. Each home has twenty-four cabbages, like the hours of a day. The seven faces of the great clock are like the days of a week. The unwelcome visitor’s large hat and tight garments make him flared at the top, like a minute hand, and at noon he covers up the slowly moving hour hand in the person of the shorter, rotund belfry-man.

The late Professor Carl Schreiber told me he thought the story satirized an excessive emphasis laid on punctuality in Philadelphia. There is reason to think that it was specifically written for its original publication in the Philadelphia Saturday Chronicle and Mirror of the Times, May 18, 1839. The number, the first of the fourth volume, has contributions from a good many local men of letters, including Charles West Thomson and John Stevenson Du Solle; and the latter dated his poem “Melancholy” May 14, 1839, which suggests he wrote it by invitation.


(A) Philadelphia Saturday Chronicle and Mirror of the Times, May 18, 1839; (B) Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840), I, 167-169; (C) the Pedder copy of the last with one manuscript change; (D) PHANTASY-PIECES, with manuscript revisions, 1842; (E) Broadway Journal, November 8, 1845 (2:271-273); (F) Works (1850), II, 383-391.

Griswold’s text (F), showing one change, is adopted. The unique file of the Saturday Chronicle (A) is in the Boston Public Library. The copy of the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, inscribed “For Miss Ann and Miss Bessie [page 365:] Pedder, from their most sincere friend, The Author,” is in the Widener Collection at Harvard.

A footnote was added in the Pedder copy (C) and a variation of it in PHANTASY-PIECES, (D), but later texts did not adopt either form. Of the four verbal changes made by Poe in (D), three were adopted in later texts, but the eleven punctuation changes were all followed. Among these, five commas were added, two dashes were changed to commas, two colons became dashes, and a comma and a dash were changed to semicolons.


What o’clock is it? — Old Saying.

Everybody knows, in a general way, that the finest place in the world is — or, alas, was — the Dutch borough of Vondervotteimittiss.{a} Yet, as it lies some distance from any of the main roads, being in a somewhat out-of-the-way situation, there are, perhaps, very few of my readers who have ever paid it a visit. For the benefit of those who have not, therefore, it will be only proper that I should enter into some account of it. And this is, indeed, the more necessary,{b} as with the hope of enlisting public sympathy in behalf of the inhabitants, I design here to give a history{c} of the calamitous events which have so lately occurred within its{d} limits. No one who knows me will doubt that the duty thus self-imposed will be executed to the best of my ability, with all that rigid impartiality, all that cautious examination into facts, and diligent collation of authorities, which should ever distinguish him who aspires to the title of historian.

By the united aid of medals, manuscripts, and inscriptions, I am enabled to say, positively, that the borough of Vondervotteimittiss has existed, from its origin, in precisely the same condition which it at present preserves.(1) Of the date of this origin, however, I grieve that I can only speak with that species of indefinite definiteness{e} which mathematicians are, at times, forced to put up with in certain algebraic formulæ. The date, I may thus say, in regard [page 366:] to the remoteness of its antiquity, cannot be less than any assignable quantity whatsoever.

Touching the derivation of the name Vondervotteimittiss, I confess myself, with sorrow, equally at fault. Among a multitude of opinions upon this delicate point — some acute, some learned, some sufficiently the reverse — I am able to select nothing which ought to be considered satisfactory.{f} Perhaps the idea of Grogswigg — nearly coincident with that of Kroutaplenttey — is to be cautiously preferred: — It runs: — “VondervotteimittissVonder, lege DonderVotteimittiss, quasi and BleitzizBleitziz obsol: pro Blitzen.” This derivation, to say the truth, is still countenanced by some traces of the electric fluid evident on the summit of the steeple of the House of the Town-Council. I do not choose, however, to commit myself on a theme of such importance, and must refer the reader desirous of{g} information, to the “Oratiuncitlæ{h} de Rebus Præter-Veteris,”{i} of Dundergutz. See, also, Blunderbuzzard “De Derivationibus,” pp. 27 to 5010, Folio, Gothic edit., Red and Black character, Catch-word and No Cypher; — wherein consult, also, marginal notes in the autograph of Stuffundpuff, with the Sub-Commentaries of Gruntundguzzell.(2)

Notwithstanding the obscurity which thus envelops{j} the date of the foundation of Vondervotteimittiss, and the derivation of its name, there can be no doubt, as I said before, that it has always existed as we find it at this epoch. The oldest man in the borough can remember not the slightest difference in the appearance of any portion of it; and, indeed, the very suggestion of such a possibility is considered an insult. The site of the village is in a perfectly circular valley, about{k} a quarter of a mile in circumference, and entirely surrounded by gentle hills, over whose summit the people have never yet ventured to pass. For this they assign the very good reason that they do not believe there is anything at all on the other side.

Round the skirts of the valley, (which is quite level, and paved throughout with flat tiles,) extends a continuous row of sixty little [page 367:] houses. These, having their backs on{l} the hills, must look, of course, to the centre of the plain, which is just sixty yards from the front door of each dwelling. Every house has a small garden before it, with {mm}a circular path,{mm} a sun-dial, and twenty-four cabbages. The buildings themselves are{n} so precisely alike, that one can in no manner be distinguished from the other. Owing to the{o} vast antiquity, the style of architecture is somewhat odd, but it{p} is not for that reason the less strikingly picturesque. They are fashioned of hard-burned little bricks,{q} red, with black ends, so that the walls look like {rr}a chess-board{rr} upon a great scale. The gables are turned to the front, and there are cornices, as big as all the rest of the house, over the eaves and over the main doors. The windows are narrow and deep, with very tiny panes and a great deal of sash. On the roof is a vast quantity of tiles with long curly ears. The woodwork, throughout, is of a dark hue,{s} and there is much carving about it, with but a trifling variety of pattern; for, time out of mind, the carvers of Vondervotteimittiss have never been able to carve more than two objects — a time-piece and a cabbage. But these they do exceedingly{t} well, and intersperse them, with singular ingenuity, wherever they find room for the chisel.

The dwellings are as much alike inside as out, and the furniture is all upon one plan. The floors are of square tiles, the {uu}chairs and tables{uu} of black-looking wood with thin crooked legs and puppy feet. The mantel-pieces are wide and high, and have not only time-pieces and cabbages sculptured over the front, but a real time-piece, which makes a prodigious {vv}ticking, on the{vv} top in the middle, with a flower-pot containing a cabbage standing on each extremity by way of outrider. Between each cabbage and the time-piece, again, is a little China man having a {ww}large stomach{ww} with a great round hole in it, through which is seen the dial-plate of a watch.

The fire-places are large and deep, with fierce crooked-looking [page 368:] fire-dogs. There is constantly a rousing fire, and a huge pot over it, full of sauer-kraut and pork, to which the good woman of the house is always busy in attending. She is a little fat old lady, with blue eyes and a red face, and wears a huge{x} cap like a sugar-loaf, ornamented with purple and yellow ribbons. Her dress is of orange-colored linsey-woolsey, made very full behind and very short in the waist — and indeed very short in other respects, not reaching below the middle{y} of her leg. This is somewhat thick, and so are her ankles, but she has a fine pair of green stockings{z} to cover them. Her shoes — of pink leather — are fastened each with a bunch of yellow ribbons puckered up in the shape of a cabbage. In her left hand she has a little heavy Dutch watch; in her right she wields a ladle for the sauer-kraut and pork. By her side there stands a fat tabby cat, with a gilt toy repeater(3) tied to its tail, which “the boys” have there fastened by way of a quiz.

The boys themselves are, all three of them, in the garden attending the pig. They are each two feet in height. They have three-cornered cocked hats, purple waistcoats reaching down to their thighs, buckskin knee-breeches, red woollen stockings, heavy shoes with big silver buckles, and long surtout{a} coats with large buttons of mother-of-pearl. Each, too, has a pipe in his mouth, and a {bb}little dumpy{bb} watch in his right hand. He takes a puff and a look, and then a look and a puff. The pig — which is corpulent and lazy — is occupied now in picking up the stray leaves that fall from the cabbages, and now in giving a kick behind at the gilt repeater, which the urchins have also tied to his tail, in order to make him look as handsome as the cat.

Right at the front door, in a high-backed leather-bottomed armed chair, with crooked legs and puppy feet like the tables, is seated the old man of the house himself. He is an exceedingly puffy little old gentleman, with big circular eyes and a huge double chin. His dress resembles that of the boys — and I need say nothing farther about it. All the difference is, that his pipe is somewhat bigger than theirs, and he can make a greater smoke. Like them, [page 369:] he has a watch, but he carries his{c} watch in his pocket. To say the truth, he has something of more importance than a watch to attend to — and what that is, I shall presently explain. He sits with his right leg upon his left knee, wears a grave countenance, and always keeps one of his eyes, at least, resolutely bent upon a certain remarkable object in{d} the centre of the plain.

This object is situated in the steeple of the House of the Town-Council. The Town-Council are all very little, round, oily,{e} intelligent men, with big saucer eyes and fat double chins, and have their coats much longer and their shoe-buckles much bigger than the ordinary inhabitants of Vondervotteimittiss. Since my sojourn in the borough, they have had several special meetings, and have adopted these{f} three important resolutions: —

“That it is wrong to alter the good old course of things:”

“That there is nothing tolerable out of Vondervotteimittiss:” and —

“That we will stick by our clocks and our cabbages.”

Above the session-room of the Council is the steeple, and in the steeple is the belfry, where exists, and has existed time out of mind, the pride and wonder of the village — the great clock of the borough of Vondervotteimittiss. And this is the object to which the eyes of{g} the old gentlemen are turned who sit in the leather-bottomed arm chairs.

The great clock has seven faces — one in each of the seven sides of the steeple{h} — so that it can be readily seen from all quarters. Its faces are large and white, and its hands heavy and black. There is a belfry-man whose sole duty is to attend to{i} it; but this duty is the most perfect of sinecures — for the clock of Vondervotteimittiss was never yet known to have anything the matter with it. Until lately, the bare supposition of such a thing was considered heretical. From the remotest period{j} of antiquity to which the archives{k} have reference, the hours have been regularly struck by the big [page 370:] bell. And, indeed, the case was{l} just the same with all the other clocks and watches in the borough. Never was such a place for keeping the true time. When the large clapper thought proper to say “Twelve o’clock!” all its obedient followers opened their throats simultaneously,{m} and responded like a very echo. In short, the good burghers were fond of their sauer-kraut, but then they were proud of their clocks.

All people who hold sinecure offices are held in more or less respect, and as the belfry-man of Vondervotteimittiss has the most perfect of sinecures, he is the most perfectly respected of any man in the world. He is the chief dignitary of the borough, and the very pigs look up to him with a sentiment of reverence. His coat-tail is very far longer — his pipe, his shoe-buckles, his eyes, and his stomach,{n} very far bigger — than those of any other{o} old gentleman in the village; and as to his chin, it is not only double, but triple.

I have thus painted the happy estate of Vondervotteimittiss: alas, that so fair a picture should ever experience a reverse!

There has been long a saying among the wisest inhabitants,{p} that “no good can come from over the hills;” and it really seemed that the words had in them something of the spirit of prophecy. It wanted five minutes of noon, on the day before yesterday, when there appeared a very odd-looking object on the summit of the ridge to the eastward. Such an occurrence, of course, attracted universal attention, and every little old gentleman who sat in a leather-bottomed arm-chair, turned one of his eyes with a stare of dismay upon the phenomenon, still keeping the other upon the clock in the steeple.

By the time that it wanted only three minutes to{q} noon, the droll object in question was{r} perceived to be a very diminutive foreign-looking young man. He descended the hills at a great rate, so that everybody had soon a good look at him. He was really the most finnicky little personage that had ever been seen in Vondervotteimittiss. His countenance was of a dark snuff-color, and he [page 371:] had a long hooked nose, pea eyes, a wide mouth, and an excellent set of teeth, which latter he seemed anxious of displaying, as he was grinning from ear to ear. What with mustachios{s} and whiskers, there was none of the rest of his face to be seen. His head was uncovered, and his hair neatly done up in papillotes. His dress was a tight-fitting swallow-tailed black coat, (from one of whose pockets dangled{t} a vast length of white handkerchief,) black kerseymere knee-breeches, black{u} stockings,{v} and stumpy-looking pumps, with huge bunches of black satin ribbon for bows. Under one arm he carried a huge chapeau-de-bras, and under the other a fiddle nearly five times{w} as big as himself. In his left hand was a gold snuff-box, from which, as he capered down the hill, cutting all manner of fantastical steps, he took snuff incessantly with an air of the greatest possible self-satisfaction. God bless me! — here was a sight for {xx}the honest{xx} burghers of Vondervotteimittiss!(4)

To speak plainly, the fellow had, in spite of his grinning, an audacious and sinister kind of face; and as he curvetted right into the village, the odd{y} stumpy appearance of his pumps excited no little suspicion; and many a burgher who beheld him that day, would have given a trifle for a peep beneath the white cambric handkerchief which hung{z} so obtrusively from the pocket of his swallow-tailed coat. But what mainly occasioned a righteous indignation was, that {aa}the scoundrelly popinjay,{aa} while he cut a fandango here, and a whirligig there, did not seem to have the remotest idea in the world of such a thing as keeping time in his steps.

The good people of the borough had scarcely a chance, however, to get their eyes thoroughly open, when, just as it wanted half a minute of noon, the{b} rascal bounced, as I say, right into the midst of them; gave a chassez{c}, here, and a balancez there; and then, after a pirouette and a pas-de-zéphyr,{d} (5) pigeon-winged himself [page 372:] right up into the belfry of the House of the Town-Council, where the wonder-stricken belfry-man sat smoking in a state of{e} dignity and dismay. But the little chap seized him at once by the nose; gave it a swing and a pull; clapped the big chapeau-de-bras upon his head; knocked it down over his eyes and mouth; and then, lifting up the big fiddle, beat him with it so long and so soundly, that what with the belfry-man being so fat, and the fiddle being so hollow, you would have sworn that{f} there was a regiment of double-bass drummers all beating the devil’s tattoo up in the belfry of the steeple of Vondervotteimittiss.(6)

There is no knowing to what desperate act of vengeance this unprincipled attack might have aroused the inhabitants, but for the important fact that it now wanted only half a second of noon. The bell was about to strike, and it was a matter of absolute and pre-eminent necessity that every body should look well at {gg}his watch.{gg} It was evident, however, that just at this moment, the fellow in the steeple was doing something that he had no business to do with the clock. But as it now began to strike, nobody had any time to attend to his manœuvres, for they had all to count the strokes of the bell as it sounded.

“One!” said the clock.

“Von!” echoed every little old gentleman in every leather-bottomed arm-chair in Vondervotteimittiss. “Von!” said his watch also; “von!” said the watch of his vrow, and “von!” said the watches of the boys, and the little gilt repeaters on the tails of the cat and{h} pig.

“Two!” continued the big bell; and

“Doo!” repeated all the repeaters.

“Three! Four! Five! Six! Seven! Eight! Nine! Ten!” said the bell.

“Dree! Vour! Fibe! Sax! Seben! Aight! Noin! Den!” answered the others.

“Eleven!” said the big one.

“Eleben!” assented the little fellows.

“Twelve!” said the bell. [page 373:]

“Dvelf!”{i} they replied, perfectly satisfied, and dropping their voices.

“Und dvelf{j} it iss!” said all the little old gentlemen, putting up their watches. But the big bell had not done with them yet.

Thirteen!” said he.

“Der Teufel!” gasped the little old gentlemen, turning pale, dropping{k} their pipes, and putting down all their right legs from over their left knees.

“Der Teufel!” groaned they, “Dirteen! Dirteen!! — Min Gott, {ll}it is{ll} Dirteen o’clock!!”(7)

{mm}Why attempt{mm} to describe the terrible scene which ensued? All Vondervotteimittiss flew at once into a lamentable{n} state of uproar.

“Vot is cum’d to mein pelly?” roared all the boys, — “I’ve been{o} ongry for dis hour!”

“Vot is cum’d to mein kraut?” screamed all the vrows, “It has been done to rags for dis hour!”

“Vot is cum’d to mein pipe?” swore all the little old gentlemen, “Donder and{p} Blitzen! it has been smoked out for dis hour!” — and they filled them up again in a great rage, and, sinking back in their arm-chairs, puffed away so fast and so fiercely that the whole valley was immediately filled with{q} impenetrable smoke.

Meantime the cabbages all turned very red in the face, and it seemed as if{r} old Nick(8) himself had taken possession of everything in the shape of a time-piece. The clocks carved upon the furniture took{s} to dancing as if bewitched, while those upon the mantelpieces could scarcely contain themselves for fury, and kept such a continual striking of thirteen, and such a frisking and wriggling of their pendulums as{t} was really horrible to see. But, worse than all, neither the cats nor the pigs could put up any longer with the{u} [page 374:] behavior of the little repeaters tied to their tails, and resented it by scampering all over the place, scratching and poking, and squeaking and screeching, and caterwauling and squalling, and flying into the faces, and running under the petticoats of the people, and creating altogether the most abominable din and confusion which it is possible for a reasonable person to conceive. And to make {vv}matters still more distressing,{vv} the rascally little scapegrace in the steeple was evidently exerting himself to the utmost. Every now and then one might catch a glimpse of the scoundrel through the smoke. There he sat in the belfry upon{w} the belfry-man, who was lying flat upon his back. In his teeth the villain{x} held the bell-rope, which he kept jerking about with his head, raising such a clatter that my ears ring again even to think of it. On his lap lay the big fiddle at which he was scraping out of all time and tune, with both{y} hands, making a great show, the nincompoop! of playing “Judy O’Flannagan” and “Paddy O’Raferty.”{y’} (9)

Affairs being thus miserably situated, I left the place in disgust, and now appeal for aid to all lovers of correct{z} time and fine kraut. Let us proceed in a body to the borough, and restore the ancient order of things{a} in Vondervotteimittiss by ejecting that little fellow{b} from the steeple.



[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 365:]

Title:  The Devil in the Belfry. An Extravaganza. (A)

a  Here is added as a footnote: Qr “Vonder vaat time it is.” (C); Quaere — Wonder what time it is? Devil. (D)

b  evident, (A, B, C, D)

c  history in petto (A)

d  the (A, B, C, D)

e  definitiveness (A, B, C, D)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 366:]

f  satisfacory. (A) misprint

g  of further (A, B, C, D)

h  Oratiunculœ (F) corrected from A, B, C, D, E

i  Prœter-Veteris,” (F) corrected from A, B, C, D, E

j  envelopes (F) misprint, corrected from A, B, C, D, E

k  of about (A, B, C, D)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 367:]

l  to (A)

mm . . . mm  circular paths, (A, B, C, D)

n  are all (A, B, C, D)

o  their (A, B, C, D)

p  Omitted (A, B, C, D)

q  brick, (A)

rr . . . rr  chess-boards (A, B, C, D)

s  a dark hue, / dingy oak, (A)

t  excellently (A, B, C, D)

uu . . . uu  tables and chairs (A, B, C, D)

vv . . . vv  tickling, on (A, B, C, D)

ww . . . ww  big belly (A, B, C, D)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 368:]

x  high (A)

y  middle of the calf (A, B, C, D)

z  stocking (A) misprint

a  surtouts (A) misprint

bb . . . bb  dumpy little (A, B, C, D)

[The following variants appea at the bottom of page 369:]

c  that (A, B, C, D)

d  is (A) misprint

e  Omitted (A, B, C, D)

f  the (A, B, C, D)

g  of all (A, B, C, D)

h  steeples (E, F) misprint, corrected from A, B, C, D

i  Omitted (A, B, C, D)

j  periods (A)

k  archieves (A) misprint

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 370:]

l  is (A, B, C, D)

m  simultaneouly, (A) misprint

n  belly, (A, B, C, D)

o  Omitted (A, B, C, D)

p  inhabitans (A) misprint

q  of (A, B, C, D)

r  was clearly (A, B, C, D)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 371:]

s  moustaches (B, C); mustachios [again] (D)

t  dandled (A)

u  black silk (A, B, C, D)

v  stocking, (A) misprint

w  time (A) misprint

xx . . . xx  the eyes of the sober (A, B, C, D)

y  old (A) misprint

z  dandled (A)

aa . . . aa  Canceled (D)

b  the little (A)

c  chazzer (A, B, C) changed in D

d  pas-de-zepher, (A, B, C, D, E, F) corrected editorially

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 372:]

e  of stupified (A, B, C, D)

f  Omitted (A, B, C, D)

gg . . . gg  their watches. (A)

h  and the (A, B, C, D)

[The following variants appea at the bottom of page 373:]

i  “Dwelf!” (A)

j  Und dvelf / Dwelf (A)

k  and dropping (A)

ll . . . ll  it is — it is (A, B, C, D, E)

mm . . . mm  What is the use in attempting (A); What is the use of attempting (B, C, D)

n  pitiable (A)

o  been an (A, B, C, D)

p  und (A, B, C, D)

q  with an (A, B, C, D)

r  if the (A, B, C, D)

s  got (A, B, C, D)

t  as it (A, B, C, D)

u  the outrageous (A, B, C, D)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 374:]

vv . . . vv  it if he could, more abominable, (A, B, C, D)

w  upon the belly of (A, B, C, D)

x  the villain / he (A, B, C) changed in D

y  both his (A, B, C, D)

[The song titles were first put in quotation marks in E, but as if of a single work instead of two — hence I make the needed emendation.]

y’  O’Rafferty.” (A, B, C, D)

z  good (A, B, C, D)

a  thing (A) misprint

b  chap (A, B, C, D)


[page 374, continued:]


1.  The town’s stagnation reminds one of the happy state of Nieuw Amsterdam under the rule of the benign and rotund Governor Wouter van Twiller and his council, who smoked their pipes and did nothing as Washington Irving’s Diedrich Knickerbocker relates in his History of New York (1809).

2.  Compare the absurd citations of learned authorities in the chapter “New Amsterdam before the Flood” in the Knickerbocker History. But Irving cited actual scholars, Poe’s are wholly made up. [There is a character named Grogzwig [page 375:] in Dickens’ Nickolas Nickleby, which Poe reviewed in Burton’s, December 1839. — Note contributed by B. Pollin.] The learned nonsense may be rendered “Vonder, read Thunder; Votteimittiss, as if and Bleitziz — obsolete for Blitzen, lightning.” “Thunder and lightning” is a German oath, mentioned also in “Lionizing.” Dundergutz wrote “Little discussions of the most ancient things”; the bibliographical description is correctly worded in a very old-fashioned way.

3.  The repeater is a toy watch.

4.  Compare the opening paragraphs of “Hans Pfaall” for the excitement occasioned in a town in Holland by the arrival of a grotesquely shaped dwarf. I also find in “The Little Old Man of Coblentz,” a story in The Talisman for 1829 (New York: Elam Bliss) a description of a being who dances, weighs nothing, wears an odd costume, has a strange pipe which interests the city fathers, and carries a gold snuff-box. Note some similarities to the costume of the devil in “Bon-Bon.” Papillotes are curl-papers; a chapeau de bras is a flat cocked hat, sometimes carried under the arm. In a review of Charles Lever’s novel Charles O’Malley in Graham’s for March 1842, Poe wrote, “Mr. Dickens has no more business with the rabble than a seraph with a chapeau de bras.”

5.  A pas-de-zephyr is mentioned in “Loss of Breath.”

6.  The devil’s tattoo is not the title of a musical composition, but a phrase usually meaning an irritating tapping of the fingers as on a table; “tattoo,” however, can also mean a beating, thumping, or rapping continuously upon something (OED). The phrase occurs in Disraeli’s Vivian Grey, Book II, chapter ii: “The Peer sat in a musing mood, playing the Devil’s tattoo upon the library table,” and I can cite from the work of a younger New York contemporary of Poe, George W. Pollen, Writings (1868), p. 79: “There being no bell, we were obliged to beat the devil’s own tattoo to get up the waiter.”

7.  “When the clock strikes thirteen” is a locution for never (Archer Taylor, American N & Q, January 1944). But clocks do strike thirteen on rare occasions, and the phenomenon is interpreted as a sign of death or very bad luck. See Elliot O’Donnell, Ghostly Phenomena (1910), pp. 33 and 161. Poe’s dull worthies observe only that the thirteenth hour must mean it is one in the afternoon.

8.  In the third of his Letters on Demonology of 1830 (New York edition 1842, p. 91), Sir Walter Scott wrote, “The Old Nick, known in England, is. . . [a] genuine descendant of the Northern sea god, Nicksa or Nixas.”Another explanation is in Samuel Butler’s Hudibras, III, i, 1314, that Niccolo Machiavelli “gave his name to our Old Nick.”

9.  “Judy O’Flanagan” is the tune to which Thomas Moore’s “Sing, sing — music was given” in Irish Melodies was set; see J. W. Lake’s edition of Moore’s Poetical Works (Philadelphia, 1835, p. xxiv. The Library of Congress has a broadside with the original words, beginning, “Good luck, Judy O’Flanagan, / Dearly she loved nate Looney McTwoulter.” The other old Irish tune, “Paddy O’Rafferty,” was set by Beethoven, Opus 224. In “The Bold Dragoon,” one of Irving’s Tales of a Traveller (1824), the devil is asked to play it.



[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 363:]

*  Fraser’s, August 1834, p. 499 The first edition as a book was published at Boston in 1836, with an unsigned introduction by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Poe mentions reading Sartor Resartus in “Marginalia,” number 135 (Godey’s, September 1845, p. 120).

  See Morton, Builder of the Beautiful, p. 39.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 364:]

  “The devil among the Dutchmen” was used as if it was a byword by Poe’s friend Lambert A. Wilmer in Our Press Gang (1860), p. 387.

§  Weber’s essay in La Nouvelle Revue Française (August 1958) was translated by Claude Richard and Robert Regan in the latter’s Poe, a Collection of Critical Essays (1967), p. 80ff.






[S:1 - TOM2T, 1978] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (The Devil in the Belfry)