Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott (E. A. Poe), “Why the Little Frenchman Wears His Hand in a Sling,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. II: Tales and Sketches (1978), pp. 462-471 (This material is protected by copyright)


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[page 462, continued:]

WHY THE LITTLE FRENCHMAN WEARS HIS HAND IN A SLING

This little piece is a mere comic anecdote, and almost the slightest story that Poe ever wrote. The chief inspiration of the tale was obviously a character in a once famous story by General George Pope Morris called “The Little Frenchman and his Water Lots.” That first appeared in the New-York Mirror of December 31, 1836, and gave its name to a collection of Morris’s stories published in 1838. It was decidedly popular, but Poe’s friend Lambert A. Wilmer did not care for it, and wrote: “General M[orris] can do nothing without ‘a little Frenchman’ . . . If there had been no little Frenchman, I doubt if the General’s wit had found any opportunity for development.”*

Morris’s story (from which Poe took nothing but the stock character and his dialect) recounts the sad adventures of one Monsieur PooPoo, a Parisian who comes to New York, has a toy shop, [page 463:] and saves $5000. He is led by a craze for land speculation to buy at auction with his savings sixty lots on Long Island, “with valuable water privileges.” Visiting them, he learns that at high tide they are under water. He then returns to Paris as poor as he had come from it.

Poe’s Irish hero appropriately comes from Connaught, for men from that most westerly province of Ireland are proverbially the most pugnacious and wildest of “Wild Irishmen.”

No source for the chief incident has been suggested, and it is the kind of thing that might have occurred in real life.

Poe’s story can hardly be earlier than the appearance of its inspiration, but no more exact dating than 1897-1839 is as yet possible. For it, alone among Poe’s Tales, no first publication in a periodical has been discovered. That there was an earlier printing than that in Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque is almost indubitable. The story is wholly uncontroversial, and precisely the kind of thing editors of the time appreciated. Indeed, it was one of the first of Poe’s stories to be pirated in London. It appeared in Bentley’s Miscellany, July 1840, with the title “The Irish Gentleman and the Little Frenchman.”

In 1837 or 1838 Poe was in touch with friends in Baltimore, where some of them presumably were editing the Saturday Visiter, a paper of which not a single issue of 1837 through 1839 is located. May this have been where the tale first appeared?

TEXTS

(A) [Unlocated periodical, 1837-1839]; (B) Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840), II, 183-191; (C) Broadway Journal, September 6, 1845 (2:129-131); (D) Works (1850), II, 473-478. PHANTASY-PIECES, title only.

Griswold’s version (D) shows auctorial changes and is followed. In the Broadway Journal (C) the tale was signed Littleton Barry (see “Loss of Breath,” n. 41). In “Why the Little Frenchman Wears His Hand in a Sling” variants in spelling are recorded because Poe’s changes show him working out a dialect for his story. As all texts insert apostrophes erratically in it’s, didn’t, couldn’t, and wouldn’t, the text is corrected by the editor and such misprints are not recorded. [page 464:]

Reprint

Bentley’s Miscellany (English and American editions), July 1840, from Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque as “The Irish Gentleman and the Little Frenchman,” without acknowledgment.

WHY THE LITTLE FRENCHMAN
WEARS HIS HAND IN A SLING. [D]

It’s on my wisiting cards sure enough (and it’s them that’s all o’ pink satin paper) that inny gintleman that plases may behould the intheristhin{a} words, “Sir Pathrick O’Grandison, Barronitt,{b} 39 Southampton Row, Russell{c} Square, Parrish o’ Bloomsbury.”(1) And shud ye be wantin{d} to diskiver who is the pink of purliteness quite, and the laider of the hot tun(2) in the houl city o’ Lonon{e} — why it’s jist mesilf.{f} And fait{g} that same is no wonder at all at all, (so be plased to stop curlin{h} your nose,) for every inch o’ the six wakes that I’ve been a gintleman, and left aff wid the bog-throthing to take up wid the Barronissy, it’s Pathrick that’s been living like a houly imperor, and gitting the iddication and the graces. Och! and wouldn’t it be a blessed thing for your sperrits if ye cud lay your two peepers jist, upon Sir Pathrick O’Grandison, Barrronitt, when he is all riddy drissed for the hopperer, or stipping into the Brisky(3) for the drive into the Hyde Park. But it’s the iligant big figgur that I ave,{i} for the rason{j} o’ which all the ladies fall in love wid me. Isn’t it my own swate silf{k} now that’ll missure the six fut, and the three inches more nor that, in me stockings, and that am excadingly will proportioned all over to match? And is it ralelly{l} more than the three fut and a bit that there is, inny how, of the little ould furrener Frinchman that lives jist over the way, and that’s a oggling and a goggling the houl day, (and bad luck to him,) at the purty widdy Misthress Tracle(4) that’s my own nixt door neighbor, (God bliss her) and a most particuller frind and acquaintance?{m} [page 467:] You percave the little spalpeen is summat down in the mouth, and wears his lift hand in a sling; and it’s for that same thing, by yur lave, that I’m going to give you the good rason.

The truth{n} of the houl matter is jist simple enough; for the very first day that I com’d from Connaught, and showd my swate little silf in the strait to the widdy, who was looking through the windy, it was a gone case althegither wid the heart o’ the purty Misthress Tracle. I percaved it, ye see, all at once, and no mistake, and that’s God’s thruth. First of all it was up wid the windy in a jiffy, and thin she threw open her two peepers to the itmost, and thin it was a little gould spy-glass that site clapped tight to one o’ them, and divil may burn me if it didn’t spake to me as plain as a peeper cud spake, and says it, through the spy-glass, “Och! the tip o’ the mornin to ye, Sir Pathrick O’Grandison, Barronitt, mavourneen; and it’s a nate gintleman that ye are, sure enough, and it’s mesilf{o} and me forten{p} jist that’ll be at yur sarvice, dear, inny time o’ day at all at all for the asking.” And it’s not mesilf{q} ye wud have to be bate in the purliteness; so I made her a bow that wud ha{r} broken yur heart althegither to behould, and thin I pulled aff me hat with a flourish, and thin I winked at her hard wid both eyes, as much as to say, “Thrue for you, yer a swate little crature, Mrs. Tracle, me darlint, and I wish I may be drownthed dead in a bog, if it’s not mesilf,{s} Sir Pathrick O’Grandison, Barronitt, that’ll make a houl bushel o’ love to yur leddy-ship, in the twinkling o’ the eye of a Londonderry purraty.”

And it was the nixt mornin, sure,{t} jist as I was making up me mind whither it wouldn’t be the purlite thing to sind a bit o’ writin{u} to the widdy by way of a love-litter, when up cum’d the delivery sarvant wid an illigant card, and he tould me that the name on it (for I niver cud rade the copper-plate printin{v} on account of being lift handed) was all about Mounseer, the Count, A Goose, Look-aisy, Maiter-di-dauns,(5) and that the houl of{w} the [page 466:] divilish lingo was the spalpeeny long name of the little ould furrener Frinchman as lived over the way.

And jist wid that in cum’d the little willian{x} himself,{y} and thin he made me a broth of a bow, and thin he said he had ounly taken the liberty of doing me the honor of the giving me a call, and thin he went on to palaver at a great rate, and divil the bit did I comprehind what he wud be afther the tilling me at all at all, excipting and saving that he said “pully wou, woolly wou,” and tould me, among a bushel o’ lies, bad luck to him, that he was mad for the love o’ my widdy Misthress Tracle, and that my widdy Mrs. Tracle had a puncheon for him. (6)

At the hearin of this, ye may swear, though, I was as mad as a grasshopper, but I remimbered that I was Sir Pathrick O’Grandison, Barronitt, and that it wasn’t althegither gentaal to lit the anger git the upper hand o’ the purliteness, so I made light o’ the matter and kipt dark, and got quite sociable wid the little chap, and afther a while what did he do but ask me to go wid him to the widdy’s saying he wud give me the feshionable inthroduction{z} to her leddyship.

“Is it there ye are?” said I thin to mesilf,{a} “and it’s thrue for you, Pathrick, that ye’re the fortunnittest mortal in life. We’ll soon see now whither it’s your swate silf,{b} or whither it’s little Mounseer Maiter-di-dauns, that Misthress Tracle is head and ears in the love wid.”

Wid that we wint aff to the widdy’s, next door, and ye may well say it was an illigant place; so it was. There was a carpet all over the floor, and in one corner there was a forty-pinny and a jews-harp(7) and the divil knows what ilse, and in another corner was a sofy, the beautifullest thing in all natur, and sitting{c} on the sofy, sure enough, there was the swate little angel, Misthress Tracle.

“The tip o’ the morning to ye,” says I, “Mrs. Tracle,” and thin{d} I made sich an iligant obaysance that it wud ha quite althegither bewildered the brain o’ ye. [page 467:]

“Wully woo, pully woo, plump in the mud,”(8) says the little furrenner Frinchman, “and, sure{e} Mrs. Tracle,” says he, that he did, “isn’t this gintleman here jist his reverence{f} Sir Pathrick O’Grandison, Barronitt,(9) and isn’t he althegither and entirely the most purticular frind and acquintance{g} that I have in the houl world?”

And wid that the widdy, she gits up from the sofy, and makes the swatest curtchy nor iver was seen; and thin down she sits{h} like an angel; and thin, by the powers, it was that little spalpeen Mounseer Maiter-di-dauns that plumped his silf{i} right down by the right side of her. Och hon! I ixpicted the two eyes o’ me wud ha cum’d out of my head on the spot, I was so dispirate mad! Howiver, “Bait who!” says I, after a while. “Is it there ye are, Mounseer Maiterdi-dauns?” and so down I plumped on the lift side of her leddyship, to be aven wid the villain. Botheration! it wud ha done your heart good to percave the illigant double wink that I gived her jist thin right in the face wid both eyes.

But the little ould Frinchman he niver beginned to suspict me at all at all, and disperate hard it was he made the love to her leddyship. “Woully wou,” says he, “Pully wou,” says he, “Plump in the{jj} mud,” says he.{jj}

“That’s all to no use, Mounseer Frog, mavourneen,” thinks I; and I talked as hard and as fast as I could all the while, and throth{k} it was mesilf{l} jist that divarted her leddyship complately and intirely, by rason of the illigant conversation that I kipt up wid her all about the dear{m} bogs of Connaught. And by and by she gived{n} me such{o} a swate smile, from one ind of her mouth to the ither,{p} that it made me as bould as a pig, and I jist took hould of the ind of her little finger in the most dillikittest manner in natur, looking at her all the while out o’ the whites of my eyes.

And then{q} ounly{r} percave the cuteness of the swate angel, for no [page 468:] sooner did she obsarve that I was afther the squazing of her flipper, than she up wid it in a jiffy, and put it away behind her back, jist as much as to say, “Now thin, Sir Pathrick O’Grandison, there’s a bitther chance for ye, mavourneen, for it’s not altogether{s} the gentaal thing to be afther the squazing of my flipper right full in the sight of that little furrenner Frinchman, Mounseer Maiter-di-dauns.”

Wid that I giv’d her a big wink jist to say “lit Sir Pathrick alone for the likes o’ them thricks,” and thin I went aisy to work, and you’d have died wid the divarsion to behould how cliverly I slipped my right arm betwane the back o’ the sofy, and the back of her leddyship, and there, sure enough, I found a swat, little flipper all a waiting to say, “the tip o’ the mornin to ye, Sir Pathrick O’Grandison, Barronitt.”{t} And wasn’t it mesilf,{u} sure, that jist giv’d it{v} the laste little bit of a squaze in the world, all in the way of a commencement, and not to be too rough wid her leddyship? and och, botheration, wasn’t it the gentaalest and dilikittest{w} of all the little squazes that I got in return? “Blood and thunder, Sir Pathrick, mavoureen,”{x} thinks I to myself,{y} “fait{z} it’s jist the mother’s son of you, and nobody else at all at all, that’s the handsomest{a} and the fortunittest young bogthrotter that ever cum’d out of Connaught!” And wid that I giv’d the flipper a big squaze, and a big squaze it was, by the powers, that her leddyship giv’d to me back. But it would{b} ha split the seven sides of you wid the laffin to behould, jist then{c} all at once, the consated{d} behavior{e} of Mounseer Maiter-di-dauns. The likes o’ sich a jabbering, and a smirking, and a parly-wouing as he begin’d wid her leddyship, niver was known before upon arth; and divil may burn me if it wasn’t me{f} own very two peepers that cotch’d him tipping her the wink out of one eye. Och hon? if it wasn’t mesilf{g} thin that was{h} mad as a Kilkenny cat(10) I shud like to be tould who it was! [page 469:]

“Let me infarm you, Mounseer Maiter-di-datms,” said I, as purlite{i} as iver ye seed, “that it’s not the gintaal thing at all at all, and not for the likes o’ you inny how, to be afther{j} the oggling and a goggling at her leddyship in that fashion,” and jist wid that such another squaze as it was I giv’d her flipper, all as much as to say, “isn’t it Sir Pathrick now, my jewel, that’ll be able to the protecting{k} o’ you, my darlint?” and then{l} there cum’d another squaze back, all by way of the answer. “Thrue for you, Sir Pathrick,” it said as plain as iver a squaze said in the world, “Thrue for you, Sir Pathrick, mavourneen, and it’s a proper nate gintleman ye are — that God’s truth,”{m} and wid that she opened her two beautiful peepers till I belaved they wud ha com’d out of her hid{n} althegither and intirely, and she looked first as mad as a cat at Mounseer Frog, and thin as smiling as all out o’ doors at mesilf.{o}

“Thin,” says he, the willian, “Och hon! and a wolly-wou,{p} pully-woo,” and then{q} wid that he shoved up his two shoulders till the divil the bit of his hid{r} was to be diskivered, and then{s} he let down the two corners of his purraty-trap,(11) and thin not a haporth{t} more of the satisfaction could I get out o’ the spalpeen.

Belave me, my jewel, it was Sir Pathrick that was unrasonable mad thin,{u} and the more by token that {vv}the Frinchman{vv} kept an{w} wid his winking{x} at the widdy; and the widdy she kipt any wid{y} the squazing of my flipper, as much as to say, “At him again Sir Pathrick O’Grandison, mavourneen;” so I just{z} ripped out wid a big oath, and says I,{a}

“Ye little spalpeeny frog of a bog-throtting son of a bloody noun!” — and jist thin what d’ye think it was that her leddyship did? Troth she jumped up from the sofy as if she was bit, and made off{b} through the door, while I turned my head round afther [page 470:] her, in a complete{c} bewilderment and botheration, and followed her wid me two peepers. You percave I had a reason{d} of my own for{e} knowing that she couldn’t git down the stares{f} althegither and entirely;{g} for I knew very well that I had hould of her hand, for divil the bit had I iver lit it go. And says I,

“Isn’t it the laste little bit of a mistake in the world that ye’ve been afther the making, yer leddyship? Come back now, that’s a darlint, and I’ll give ye yur flipper.” But off she wint down the stairs like a shot, and then I turned round to the little Frinch{h} furrenner. Och hon! if it wasn’t his spalpeeny little paw{i} that I had hould of in my own — why thin — thin it wasn’t — that’s all.

And maybe{j} it wasn’t mesilf{k} that jist died then outright wid the laffin, to behould the little chap when he found out that it wasn’t the widdy at all at all{l} that he had{m} hould of all the time{n} but only Sir Pathrick O’Grandison. The ould divil himself{o} niver behild sich{p} a long face as he pet an!{q} As for Sir Pathrick O’Grandison, Barronitt, it wasn’t for the likes of his riverence to be afther the minding of{r} a thrifle of a mistake. Ye may jist say, though (for it’s God’s thruth) that afore I lift hould of the flipper of the spalpeen, (which was not till afther her leddyship’s futmen had kicked us both down the stairs,) I gived it such a nate little broth of a squaze, as made it all up into raspberry jam.

“Wouly-wou,” says he, “pully-wou,” says he — “Cot tam!”

And that’s jist the thruth of the rason why he wears his left{s} hand in a sling.{t}

 


VARIANTS

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 464:]

a  intheristhing (B)

b  Barronit, (B)

c  Russel (B)

d  wanting (B)

e  London (B)

f  meself. (B)

g  faith (B)

h  curling (B)

i  have, (B)

j  reason (B)

k  self (B)

l  really (B)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 465:]

m  acquintance? (C)

n  thruth (B)

o  meself (B)

p  fortin (B, C)

q  meself (B)

r  have (B)

s  meself, (B)

t  sure enough, (B)

u  writing (B)

v  printing (B)

w  o’ (B)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 466:]

x  villain (B)

y  himsilf, (C)

z  introduction (B)

a  meself — (B)

b  silf, dear, (B)

c  sittin (B)

d  then (B)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 467:]

e  sure enough (B)

f  riverence (B, C)

g  acquaintance (B)

h  gits agin (B)

i  self (B)

jj . . . jj  mud.” (B)

k  troth (B)

l  meself (B)

m  swate (B)

n  giv’d (B)

o  sich (B)

p  other, (B)

q  thin (B)

r  ounly to (B, C)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 468:]

s  althegither (B)

t  Barronit.” (B)

u  meself, (B)

v  Omitted (B)

w  delikittest (B)

x  mavourneen,” (B, C)

y  meself, (B); meself (C)

z  faith (B)

a  handsommest (B)

b  wud (B)

c  thin (B, C)

d  concated (B, C)

e  behaviour (B, C)

f  my (B)

g  meself (B)

h  was as (B)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 469:]

i  purlit (B)

j  after (B)

k  protecting (B, C)

l  thin (B)

m  thruth” — (B)

n  head (B)

o  meself. (B)

p  woolly-wou, (B, C)

q  thin (B, C)

r  head (B)

s  thin (B, C)

t  a haporth / the bit (B)

u  thin, sure enough, (B)

vv . . . vv  he (B); the Finchman (C)

w  kept an / kept on (B); kipt an (C)

x  winking and blinking (B)

y  kipt an / kept on (B); kip tan (C)

z  jist (B, C)

a  I, sure enough — (B)

b  aff (B, C)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 470:]

c  complate (B, C)

d  rason (B, C)

e  for the (B, C)

f  stairs (B, C)

g  intirely — (B)

h  French (B)

i  flipper (B)

j  And maybe / Maybe (B)

k  meself (B)

l  at all omitted (B)

m  had had (C)

n  of all the time, / of, (B)

o  himsilf (C)

p  such (B)

q  on! (B)

r  Omitted (B, C)

s  lift (B, C)

t  signed LITTLETON BARRY (C)

 


[page 470, continued:]

NOTES

1.  The narrator is a namesake of the hero of Samuel Richardson’s novel Sir Charles Grandison (1753). His London address is that of a house in which John Allan and his family resided for a time, according to a letter of September [page 471:] 12, 1817, quoted by Quinn (Poe, p. 77). The landlord was a Frenchman, Henry Dubourg, whose sisters’ school Edgar Poe attended as a boy.

2.  Haut ton.

3.  The vehicle driven in Hyde Park by the baronet is a britska (the word is spelled in several ways), a light four-wheel carriage with a calash top, originally designed in Poland.

4.  Mrs. Tr[e]acle is appropriately named for her sweetness.

5.  The dancing master Luchesi is pretty surely named for a Baltimore character of whom John H. Hewitt in Shadows on the Wall (1877), p. 68, wrote:

Frederick Lucchesi . . . held a prominent position as teacher of music . . . I remember him when he played the piccolo in the band at West Point. . . He was a small boy then . . . and excited the admiration of all by his skill in handling his tiny instrument.

Mr. John D. Kilbourne, Librarian of the Maryland Historical Society, wrote that the Baltimore Sun of September 4, 1869, records his death on the previous day in his fifty-eighth year. He was a native of Lucca in Italy, but a resident of Baltimore for thirty-five years. In 1837 and 1840, the Directory calls him a musician; in 1842, a music teacher; in 1845 and later, a Professor of Music. Playing the piccolo, however well, is regarded as comic by literary convention, and Frenchmen often bore Italian names. Luchesi is also the name of a minor character in “The Cask of Amontillado.”

6.  Luchesi probably said, “Pouvez-vous, voulez-vous,” and thought the widow had a “penchant” for him.

7.  The pianoforte (or forty-penny!) and the jew’s harp show that the widow had a catholic taste in music.

8.  “Plump in the mud” may be “Tout à la mode.”

9.  In Politian, II, 91, San Ozzo is called “his reverence,” although he is without ecclesiastical connections.

10.  Two Kilkenny cats in Irish legend fought with each other until only their tails were left.

11.  The purraty-trap is the trap for “praties” (potatoes), hence the mouth.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 462:]

*  The Quacks of Helicon (1841), p. 43. Morris included in his volume several other tales of little Frenchmen.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 463:]

  In preparing a Table of Contents for the revised and expanded version of Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, to be called PHANTASY-PIECES in 1842, Poe canceled the titles of two stories which had not yet appeared in magazines.

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:1 - TOM2T, 1978] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (Why the Little Frenchman Wears His Hand in a Sling)