Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott (E. A. Poe), “The Angel of the Odd,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. III: Tales and Sketches (1978), pp. 1098-1112 (This material is protected by copyright)


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[page 1098, continued:]

THE ANGEL OF THE ODD

This is a bit of good-natured buffoonery, probably the most pleasantly absurd story Poe ever wrote. If we accept his own idea that the true basis of the comic is the combination of elements that do not belong together, we must regard “The Angel of the Odd” as a successful production.

It is also of interest in exemplifying Poe’s love of experiment. In this tale the impossible incidents are throughout treated quizzically; and, at last, everything turns out to be a dream. Reviewing Dr. Robert Montgomery Bird’s Sheppard Lee in the Southern Literary Messenger, September 1836, Poe had dismissed both the dream and complete jocularity as inferior methods in treatment of the incredible, but in 1844, he could not resist trying them out.*

Professor Gerald E. Gerber, in an article he courteously showed me before publication, pointed out that “ ‘The Angel of the Odd’ . . . provides additional evidence of Poe’s well-known dislike for the spirit of social reform,” burlesquing “both the ideal of perfectibility and those reformers whose schemes were calculated to improve mankind.” [page 1099:]

As early as 1835, in “Lionizing,” Poe had made fun of “a human-perfectibility man” along with other guests at Lady Blessington’s party. Writing to Lowell on July 2, 1844, he said: “I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity”; and on July 10 he wrote to Chivers, “Man is now only more active, not wiser nor more happy, than he was 6000 years ago.” He summarized his opinion on reformers in 1849:

The world is infested, just now, by a new sect of philosophers, who have not yet suspected themselves of forming a sect, and who, consequently, have adopted no name. They are the Believers in everything Odd. Their High Priest, in the East, is Charles Fourier — in the West, Horace Greeley . . . The only common bond among the sect, is Credulity: — let us call it Insanity at once, and be done with it.

Poe’s impulse to write his story almost surely came from the newspaper article he quotes in his second paragraph. I found it in the Philadelphia Public Ledger of June 5, 1844. (See note 5 below.)

Gerber refers to a number of possible sources for ideas and details in Poe’s story, ranging from “It’s Very Odd,” a story in Blackwood’s, January 1829, through several books reviewed by Poe, to brief items in New York papers in the spring and summer of 1844, including one on “Progress of Social Questions” in the Tribune of June 8. Most significant of these sources is Cornelius Webbe’s The Man About Town (Philadelphia, 1839), briefly noted in Burton’s, October 1839, by Poe, who mentions for special commendation the chapter “Punning &c Made Easy.” There is found an account of a transcendentalist Professor of Humanity from Leipzig, visiting England, who had his breeches repaired by “a little sporting slang tailor.” When the job was completed, the tailor asked for “Eight and a Kick.” The transcendentalist — who prided himself on his knowledge of English but did not know that “kick” was rhyming slang for sixpence — said, “Mein Gott! dat is very ott of him!” — then gave the tailor eight shillings and kicked him.

Webbe’s moral is “a little learning is a dangerous thing,” and Gerber thinks Poe played on the rest of Pope’s couplet, “Drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring,” not only with relation to [page 1100:] Kirschenwasser but also to one of the “utopian excesses” of the time, Hydropathy.

Poe himself paid his respects to the water cure in the fifth letter of “Doings of Gotham,” printed in the Columbia Spy, June 15, 1844, where he called its propounder, Vincent Priessnitz, “that monarch of charlatans.” Priessnitz, a peasant, advocated the external and internal use of cold water for every ailment.§ The foes of liquor — the Washingtonians — also advocated at least the internal use of “Adam’s ale.” Poe’s angel reverses things in substituting for plain water its namesake Kirschenwasser, a colorless but highly potent brandy, with results disastrous to the narrator of the story.

Poe’s tale was probably written in the summer of 1844.*

TEXTS

(A) Columbian Magazine for October 1844 (2:158-161); (B) Works, IV (1856), 278-287.

Griswold’s text (B) is used; he obviously had a revised form. Two words, omitted by accident, are restored in our text from the first printing (A). The spelling “villanous” was accepted in Poe’s day, and both authorized texts of this story use this spelling.

THE ANGEL OF THE ODD.   [B]

AN EXTRAVAGANZA.

IT was a chilly November afternoon. I had just consummated an unusually hearty dinner, of which the dyspeptic{a} truffé{a‘} (1) formed not the least important item, and was sitting alone in the dining room, with my feet upon the fender, and at my elbow a small table [page 1101:] which I had rolled up to the fire, and upon which were some apologies for dessert, with some miscellaneous bottles of wine, spirit and liqueur. In the morning I had been reading Glover’s “Leonidas,” Wilkie’s{b} “Epigoniad,” Lamartine’s “Pilgrimage,” Barlow’s “Columbiad,” {cc}Tuckerman’s “Sicily,” and{cc} Griswold’s “Curiosities;” I am willing to confess, therefore, that I now felt a little stupid.(2) I made effort to arouse myself by aid of frequent Lafitte,(3) and, all failing, I betook myself to a stray newspaper in despair. Having carefully perused the column of “houses to let,” and the column of “dogs lost,” and then the two columns of “wives and apprentices runaway,” I attacked with great resolution the editorial matter, and, reading it from beginning to end without understanding a syllable, conceived the possibility of its being Chinese, and so re-read it from the end to the beginning, but with no more satisfactory result. I was about throwing away, in disgust,

This folio of four pages, happy work

Which not even critics criticise,(4)

when I felt my attention somewhat aroused by the paragraph which follows:

“The avenues to death are numerous and strange. A London paper mentions the decease of a person from a singular cause. He was playing at ‘puff the dart,’ which is played with a long needle inserted in some worsted, and blown at a target through a tin tube. He placed the needle at the wrong end of the tube, and drawing his breath strongly to puff the dart forward with force, drew the needle into his throat. It entered the lungs, and in a few days killed him.”(5)

Upon seeing this I fell into a great rage, without exactly knowing why. “This thing,” I exclaimed, “is a contemptible falsehood — a poor hoax — the lees of the invention of some pitiable penny-a-liner — of some wretched concoctor of accidents in Cocaigne.(6) These fellows, knowing the extravagant gullibility of the age, set their wits to work in the imagination of improbable possibilities — of odd accidents, as they term them; but to a reflecting intellect (like mine,” I added, in parenthesis, putting my forefinger unconsciously [page 1102:] to the side of my nose,) “to a contemplative understanding such as I myself possess, it seems evident at once that the marvellous increase of late in these ‘odd accidents’ is by far the oddest accident of all. For my own part, I intend to believe nothing henceforward that has anything of the ’singular’ about it.”

“Mein Gott, den, vat a vool you bees for dat!” replied one of the most remarkable voices I ever heard. At first I took it for a rumbling in my ears — such as a man sometimes experiences when getting very drunk — but, upon second thought, I considered the sound as more nearly resembling that which proceeds from an empty barrel beaten with a big stick; and, in fact, this I should have concluded it to be, but for the articulation of the syllables and words. I am by no means naturally nervous, and the very few glasses of Lafitte which I had sipped served to embolden me no little, so that I felt nothing of trepidation, but merely uplifted my eyes with a leisurely movement, and looked carefully around the room for the intruder. I could not, however, perceive any one at all.

“Humph!” resumed the voice, as I continued my survey, “you mus pe so dronk as de pig, den, for not zee me as I zit here at your zide.”

Hereupon I bethought me of looking immediately before my nose, and there, sure enough, confronting me at the table sat a personage nondescript, although not altogether indescribable. His body was a wine-pipe, or a rum puncheon, or something of that character, and had a truly Falstaffian air. In its nether extremity were inserted two kegs, which seemed to answer all the purposes of legs. For arms there dangled from the upper portion of the carcass two tolerably long bottles, with the necks outward for hands. All the head that I saw the monster possessed of was one of those Hessian canteens which resemble a large snuff-box with a hole in the middle of the lid.(7) This canteen (with a funnel on its top, like a cavalier cap slouched over the eyes) was set on edge upon the puncheon, with the hole toward myself; and through this hole, which seemed puckered up like the mouth of a very precise old maid, the creature was emitting certain rumbling and grumbling noises which he evidently intended for intelligible talk.

“I zay,” said he, “you mos pe dronk as de pig, vor zit dare and [page 1103:] not zee me zit ere; and I zay, doo, you mos pe pigger vool as de goose, vor to dispelief vat iz print in de print. ’Tiz de troof — dal it iz — eberry vord ob it.”

“Who are you, pray?” said I, with much dignity, although somewhat puzzled; “how did you get here? and what is it you are talking about?”

“As vor ow I com’d ere,” replied the figure, “dat iz none of your pizziness; and as vor vat I be talking apout, I be talk apout vat I tink proper; and as vor who I be, vy dat is de very ting I com’d here for to let you zee for yourself.”

“You are a drunken vagabond,” said I, “and I shall ring the bell and order my footman to kick you{d} into the street.”

“He! he! he!” said the fellow, “hu! hu! hu! dat you can’t do.”

“Can’t do!” said I, “what do you mean? — I can’t do what?”

“Ring de pell;” he replied, attempting a grin with his little villanous mouth.

Upon this I made an effort to get up, in order to put my threat into execution; but the ruffian just reached across the table very deliberately, and hitting me a tap on the forehead with the neck of one of the long bottles, knocked me back into the arm-chair from which I had half arisen. I was utterly astounded; and, for a moment, was quite at a loss what to do. In the meantime, he continued his talk.

“You zee,” said he, “it iz to bess vor zit still; and now you shall know who I pe. Look at me! zee! I am te Angel ov te Odd.”

“And odd enough, too,” I ventured to reply; “but I was always under the impression that an angel had wings.”

“Te wing!” he cried, highly incensed, “vat I pe do mit to wing? Mein Gott! do you take me vor a shicken?”

“No — oh no!” I replied, much alarmed, “you are no chicken — certainly not.”

“Well, den, zit still and pehabe yourself, or I’ll rap you again mid me vist. It iz te shicken ab te wing, und te owl ab te wing, und te imp ab te wing, und te head-teuffel(8) ab te wing. Te angel ab not te wing, and I am te Angel ov te Odd.” [page 1104:]

“And your business with me at present is — is” —

“My pizzness!”{e} ejaculated the thing, “vy vat a low bred{f} buppy you mos pe vor to ask a gentleman and an angel apout his pizziness!”

This language was rather more than I could bear, even from an angel; so, plucking up courage, I seized a salt-cellar which lay within reach, and hurled it at the head of the intruder. Either he dodged, however, or my aim was inaccurate; for all I accomplished was the demolition of the crystal which protected the dial of the clock upon the mantel-piece. As for the Angel, he evinced his sense of my assault by giving me two or three hard consecutive raps upon the forehead as before. These reduced me at once to submission, and I am almost ashamed to confess that either through pain or vexation, there came a few tears into my eyes.

“Mein Gott!” said the Angel of the Odd, apparently much softened at my distress; “mein Gott, te man is eder ferry dronk or ferry zorry. You mos not trink it so strong — you mos put te water in te wine. Here, trink dis, like a goot veller, und don’t gry now — don’t!”

Hereupon the Angel of the Odd replenished my goblet (which was about a third full of Port) with a colorless fluid that he poured from one of his hand bottles. I observed that these bottles had labels about their necks, and that these labels were inscribed “Kirschenwasser.”(9)

The considerate kindness of the Angel mollified me in no little measure; and, aided by the water with which he diluted my Port more than once, I at length regained sufficient temper to listen to his very extraordinary discourse. I cannot pretend to recount all that he told me, but I gleaned from what he said that he was the genius who presided over the contretemps{g} of mankind, and whose business it was to bring about the odd accidents which are continually astonishing the skeptic. Once or twice, upon my venturing to express my total incredulity in respect to his pretensions, he grew very angry indeed, so that at length I considered it the wiser policy to say nothing at all, and let him have his own way. He talked [page 1105:] on, therefore, at great length, while I merely leaned back in my chair with my eyes shut, and amused myself with munching raisins and filliping the stems about the room. But, by-and-by,{h} the Angel suddenly construed this behavior of mine into contempt. He arose in a terrible passion, slouched his funnel down over his eyes, swore a vast oath, uttered a threat of some character which I did not precisely comprehend, and finally made me a low bow and departed, wishing me, in the language of{i} the archbishop in Gil-Blas, “beaucoup de bonheur et un peu plus de bon sens.”(10)

His departure afforded me relief. The very{j} few glasses of Lafitte that I had sipped had the effect of rendering me drowsy, and I felt inclined to take a nap of some fifteen or twenty minutes, as is my custom after dinner. At six I had an appointment of consequence, which it was quite indispensable that I should keep. The policy of insurance for my dwelling house had expired the day before; and, some dispute having arisen, it was agreed that, at six, I should meet the board of directors of the company and settle the terms of a renewal. Glancing upward at the clock on the mantel-piece, (for I felt too drowsy to take out my watch), I had the pleasure to find that I had still twenty-five minutes to spare. It was half past five; I could easily walk to the insurance office in five minutes; and my usual{k} siestas had never been known to exceed five and twenty. I felt sufficiently safe, therefore, and composed myself to my slumbers forthwith.

Having completed them to my satisfaction, I again looked toward the time-piece and was half inclined to believe in the possibility of odd accidents when I found that, instead of my ordinary fifteen or twenty minutes, I had been dozing only three; for it still wanted seven and twenty of the appointed hour. I betook myself again to my nap, and at length a second time awoke, when, to my utter amazement, it still wanted twenty-seven minutes of six. I jumped up to examine the clock, and found that it had ceased running. My watch informed me that it was half past seven; and, of course, having slept two hours, I was too late for my appointment. “It will make no difference,” I said: “I can call at the office in the [page 1106:] morning and apologize; in the meantime what can be the matter with the clock?” Upon examining it I discovered that one of the raisin stems which I had{l} been filliping about the room during the discourse of the Angel of the Odd, had flown through the fractured crystal, and lodging, singularly enough, in the key-hole, with an end projecting outward, had thus arrested the revolution of the minute hand.

“Ah!” said I, “I see how it is. This thing speaks for itself. A natural accident, such as will happen now and then!”

I gave the matter no further{m} consideration, and at my usual hour retired to bed. Here, having placed a{n} candle upon a reading stand at the bed head, and having made an attempt to peruse some pages of the “Omnipresence of the Deity,”(11) I unfortunately fell asleep in less than twenty seconds, leaving the light burning as it was.

My dreams were terrifically disturbed by visions of the Angel of the Odd. Methought he stood at the foot of the couch, drew aside the curtains, and, in the hollow, detestable tones of a rum puncheon, menaced me with the bitterest vengeance for the contempt with which I had treated him. He concluded a long harangue by taking off his funnel-cap, inserting the tube into{o} my gullet, and thus deluging me with an ocean of Kirschenwässer, which he poured, in a continuous flood, from one of the long necked bottles that stood him instead of an arm. My agony was at length insufferable, and I awoke just in time to perceive that a rat had run off with the lighted candle from the stand, but not in season to prevent his making his escape with it through the{p} hole. Very soon, a strong suffocating odor assailed my nostrils; the house, I clearly perceived, was on fire. In a few minutes the blaze broke forth with violence, and in an incredibly brief period the entire building was wrapped in flames. All egress from my chamber, except through a window, was cut off. The crowd, however, quickly procured and raised a long ladder. By means of this I was descending rapidly, and in apparent safety, when a huge hog, about whose rotund stomach, and [page 1107:] indeed about whose whole air and physiognomy, there was something which reminded me, of the Angel of the Odd — when this hog, I say, which hitherto had been quietly slumbering in the mud, took it suddenly into his head that his left shoulder needed scratching, and could find no more convenient rubbing-post than that afforded by the foot of the ladder. In an instant I was precipitated and had the misfortune to fracture my arm.

This accident, with the loss of my insurance, and with the more serious loss of my hair, the whole of which had been singed off by the fire, predisposed me to serious impressions, so that, finally, I made up my mind to take a wife. There was a rich widow disconsolate for the loss of her seventh husband,{q} and to her wounded spirit I offered the balm of my vows. She yielded a reluctant consent to my prayers. I knelt at her feet in gratitude and adoration. She blushed and bowed her luxuriant tresses into close contact with those supplied me, temporarily, by Grandjean.(12) I know not how the entanglement took place, but so it was. I arose with a shining pate, wigless; she in disdain and wrath, half buried in alien hair. Thus ended my hopes of the widow by an accident which could not have been anticipated, to be sure, but which the natural sequence of events had brought about.

Without despairing, however, I undertook the siege of a less implacable heart. The fates were again propitious for a brief period; but again a trivial incident interfered. Meeting my betrothed in an avenue thronged with the élite{r} of the city, I was hastening to greet her with one of my best considered bows, when a small particle of some foreign matter, lodging in the corner of my eye, rendered me, for the moment, completely blind. Before I could recover my sight, the lady of my love had disappeared — irreparably affronted at what she chose to consider my premeditated rudeness in passing her by ungreeted. While I stood bewildered at the suddenness of this accident, (which might have happened, nevertheless, to any one under the sun), and while I still continued incapable of sight, I was accosted by the Angel of the Odd, who proffered me his aid with a civility which I had no reason to expect. [page 1108:] He examined my disordered eye with much gentleness and skill, informed me that I had a drop in it,(13) and (whatever a “drop” was) took it out, and afforded me relief.

I now considered it high time{s} to die, (since fortune had so determined to persecute me), and accordingly made my way to the nearest river. Here, divesting myself of my clothes, (for there is no reason why we cannot die as we were born), I threw myself headlong into the current; the sole witness of my fate being a solitary crow that had been seduced into the eating of brandy-saturated corn, and so had staggered away from his fellows. No sooner had I entered the water than this bird took it into his head to fly away with the most indispensable portion of my apparel. Postponing, therefore, for the present, my suicidal design, I just slipped my nether extremities into the sleeves of my coat, and betook myself to a pursuit of the felon with all the nimbleness which the case required and its circumstances would admit. But my evil destiny attended me still. As I ran at full speed, with my nose up in the atmosphere, and intent only upon the purloiner of my property, I suddenly perceived that my feet rested no longer upon terra-firma; the fact is, I had thrown myself over a precipice, and should inevitably have been dashed to pieces but for my good fortune in grasping the end of a long guide-rope, which depended from a passing balloon.(14)

As soon as I sufficiently recovered my senses to comprehend the terrific predicament in which I stood or rather hung, I exerted all the power of my lungs to make that predicament known to the æronaut overhead. But for a long time I exerted myself in vain. Either the fool could not, or the villain would not perceive me. Meantime the machine rapidly soared, while my strength even more rapidly failed. I was soon{t} upon the point of resigning myself to my fate, and dropping quietly{u} into the sea, when my spirits were suddenly revived by hearing a hollow voice from above, which seemed to be lazily humming an opera air. Looking up, I perceived the Angel of the Odd. He was leaning with his arms folded, over the rim of the car; and with a pipe in his mouth, at which he puffed [page 1109:] leisurely, seemed to be upon excellent terms with himself and the universe. I was too much exhausted to speak, so I merely regarded him with an imploring air.

For several minutes, although he looked me full in the face, he said nothing. At length removing carefully his meerschaum from the right to the left corner of his mouth, he condescended to speak.

“Who pe you,” he asked, “und what der teuffel you pe do dare?”

To this piece of impudence, cruelty and affectation, I could reply only by ejaculating the monosyllable “Help!”

“Elp!” echoed the ruffian — “not I. Dare iz to pottle — elp yourself, und pe tam’d!”

With these words he let fall a heavy bottle of Kirschenwasser which, dropping precisely upon the crown of my head, caused me to imagine that my brains were entirely knocked out. Impressed with this idea, I was about to relinquish my hold and give up the ghost with a good grace, when I was arrested by the cry of the Angel, who bade me hold on.

“Old on!” he said; “don’t pe in te urry — don’t! Will you pe take de odder pottle, or ave you pe got zober yet and come to your zenzes?”

I made haste, hereupon, to nod my head twice — once in the negative, meaning thereby that I would prefer not taking the other bottle at present — and once in the affirmative, intending thus to imply that I was sober and had positively come to my senses. By these means I somewhat softened the Angel.

“Und you pelief, ten,” he inquired, “at te last? You pelief, ten, in te possibility of te odd?”

I again nodded my head in assent.

“Und you ave pelief in me, te Angel of te Odd?”

I nodded again.

“Und you acknowledge tat you pe te blind dronk und te vool?”

I nodded once more.

“Put your right hand into your left hand preeches pocket, ten, in token ov your vull zubmizzion unto te Angel ov te Odd.”

This thing, for very obvious reasons, I found it quite impossible to do. In the first place, my left arm had been broken in my fall from the ladder, and, therefore, had I let go my hold with the right [page 1110:] hand, I must have let go altogether. In the second place, I could have no breeches until I{v} came across the crow. I was therefore obliged, much to my regret, to shake my head in the negative — intending thus to give the Angel to understand that I found it inconvenient, just at that moment, to comply with his very reasonable demand! No sooner, however, had I ceased shaking my head than —

“Go to der teuffel, ten!” roared the Angel of the Odd.

In pronouncing these words, he drew a sharp knife across the guide-rope by which I was suspended, and as we then happened to be precisely over my own house, (which, during my peregrinations, had been handsomely rebuilt,) it so occurred that I tumbled headlong down the ample chimney and alit upon the dining-room hearth.

Upon coming to my senses, (for the fall had very thoroughly stunned me,) I found it about four o’clock in the morning. I lay outstretched where I had fallen from the balloon. My head grovelled in the ashes of an extinguished fire, while my feet reposed upon the wreck of a small table, overthrown, and amid the fragments of a miscellaneous dessert, intermingled with a newspaper, some broken glasses and shattered bottles, and an empty jug of the Schiedam Kirschenwasser. Thus revenged himself the Angel of the Odd.

 


VARIANTS

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1100:]

a  dispeptic (A)

a’ truffe (A, B)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1101:]

b  Wickliffe’s (A)

cc . . . cc  and (A)

[The following variant appears at the bottom of page 1103:]

d  you out (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1104:]

e  pizziness!” (A)

f  pred (A)

g  contre temps (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1105:]

h  by and bye, (A)

i  Omitted (B) restored from A

j  very (A)

k  usual post prandian (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1106:]

l  Omitted (B) restored from A

m  farther (A)

n  the (A)

o  in (A)

p  his (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1107:]

q  spouse, (A)

r  elite (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1108:]

s  high time / time (A)

t  Omitted (A)

u  quiety (B) misprint

[The following variant appears at the bottom of page 1110:]

v  we (A)

 


[page 1110, continued:]

NOTES

1.  A dish truffé, that is with truffles, is usually very rich.

2.  The books mentioned are all dull, at least they were in Poe’s opinion. Professor George Saintsbury called Richard Glover’s Leonidas (1737) a “stupendous and terrible blank-verse epic.” The Epigoniad (1757) is an epic on the Seven against Thebes by the “Scotch Homer,” William Wilkie. The reading “Wickliffe” of the earliest version is puzzling, since a reference to the fourteenth-century English religious reformer, John Wycliffe, would be pointless. But it may have been a slip of the author or of his printer, since Charles A. Wickliffe of Kentucky was Postmaster General in Tyler’s cabinet, 1841-1845, and the name was familiar. Lamartine’s Souvenirs d‘Orient was translated with the title Pilgrimage to the Holy Land (1835); Poe had no high regard for Lamartine — see “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” n. 18, Joel Barlow’s Columbiad (Baltimore, [page 1111:] 1807) is a huge volume by the Hartford Wit, an epic in heroic couplets on Columbus; a reference to it was canceled in “The Domain of Amheim.” Poe reviewed Henry T. Tuckerman’s Isabel, or Sicily: A Pilgrimage (Philadelphia, 1839) in Burton’s, July 1839, and mentioned it in “A Chapter on Autography” (Graham’s, November 1840), where he called Tuckerman “a correct writer . . . but an insufferably tedious and dull one.” Poe, however, seems to have liked Tuckerman personally after they met in 1845. Griswold, at the instigation of the publishers, compiled a 64-page independently numbered addition to increase the bulk of a two-column American reprinting of Isaac D’Israeli’s popular and durable work. See Curiosities of Literature, and The Literary Character Illustrated, by I.C. [!] D’Israeli . . . With Curiosities of American Literature, by Rufus W. Griswold . . . New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1844, and the preface to Griswold’s addition. See also Poe’s comments on Griswold’s appendix in his letters to the Columbia Spy dated June 18 and June 25, 1844 (Doings of Gotham, pp. 68-69 and p. 76) where he calls it “that last and greatest of all absurdities.”

3.  Château Lafite is usually considered the best of the red wines of Bordeaux. Poe mentioned it also in “Lionizing” and in early versions of “Bon-Bon.” Not only in this story but always Poe spelled this wine “Lafitte,” which makes it doubtful that he is here referring to Lafitte, the Pirate of the Gulf, a popular novel he reviewed unfavorably in SLM, August 1836.

4.  The lines describing a newspaper are from Cowper’s Task, IV, 50-51.

5.  Save for the first line, the quotation about “puff-the-dart” I found almost verbatim, headed “Singular Death,” in the Philadelphia Public Ledger of June 5, 1844. See my note in the London N & Q, January 3, 1931.

6.  Cocaigne (or Cockaigne — see OED) is a humorous name for London, home of the Cockneys.

7.  A Hessian canteen made of tinned iron, found in the Hut Camp of the Hessian Body Regiment at Arden Street, Manhattan, is now in the New-York Historical Society. It has a cylindrical body seven and three-quarters inches high and five and three-quarters wide — a little larger than a two-pound coffee can — with a spout one inch high and seven-eighths in diameter centered in the top. Gerber called attention to a being who appears first as a leaping mustard pot and then as a fairy among the supper dishes in Anster Fair (1812) by William Tennant. This portion of Tennant’s mock-heroic poem was reprinted in the New Mirror (New York), May 4, 1844.

8.  Head devil.

9.  Kirschenvasser, cherry brandy, is made at Schiedam in Holland, and elsewhere in Europe, from unpitted whole cherries; it is more often called kirschwasser or kirsch.

10.  The angel wishes the narrator “plenty of happiness and a little more good sense” in French of Poe’s own. In Le Sage’s Gil Blas, VII, iv, the archbishop wishes the hero “toutes sorts de prospérités avec un peu de goût” — taste.

11.  Robert Montgomery’s Omnipresence of the Deity (London 1828), although it had twenty-six editions before 1855, is famed for dullness. Poe alludes to the soporific effect of the book in “Loss of Breath”; see n. 15 on that tale, and [page 1112:] see also “Never Bet the Devil Your Head,” n. 20. In “Marginalia,” number 83 (Democratic Review, December 1844), Poe says he can find no merit in “anything ever written by either of the Montgomeries.”

12.  Auguste Grandjean “hair comp.” had an establishment at 1 Barclay Street, New York, according to the 1844 Directory. See also “Loss of Breath” for reference to the hair tonic made by him.

13.  A drop it the eye means slightly intoxicated. Compare Robert Burns, “O Willie brewed a Peck o’ Maut”: “We are na fou’, we’re no that fou, / But just a drappie in our e’e.”

14.  The dirigibles Victoria in the “Balloon Hoax” and Skylark in “Mellonta Tanta” also have trailing guide ropes.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 1098:]

*  A dream is hinted in “Some Words with a Mummy,” but thereafter Poe avoided impossible subjects. His wild stories involving mesmerism are not really exceptions, for many of Poe’s contemporaries thought they might be true.

  [See Gerber’s paper, “Poe’s Odd Angel,” Nineteenth Century Fiction, June 1968, pp. 88-93.]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 1099:]

  “Fifty Suggestions” number 28. Graham’s Magazine, June 1849, p. 363. Harrison, 14:179, misprints Odd as Old, thereby destroying the point.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 1100:]

§  Three enthusiasts for the regimen became friends of Poe later — Marie Louise Shew, who wrote Water-Cure for Ladies (1844), her husband Dr. Joel Shew, and Mrs. Mary Gove Nichols. They did not change Poe’s attitude, and he ridiculed Hydropathy and other current fads in his “Literati” sketch, “Mary Gove,” in Godey’s, July 1846.

*  Woodberry’s comment on his listing of the tales (Life, 1909, II, 405) fails to take account of the fact that “The Angel of the Odd” is not mentioned as either published or unpublished in Poe’s list of tales written up to May 28, 1844 in his letter of that date to Lowell.

 


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Notes:

Errata:

In the second footnote on p. 1100, Joel Shew was the husband of Marie Louise Shew, not her brother-in-law, as TOM states.


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[S:1 - TOM3T, 1978] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (The Angel of the Odd)