Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott (E. A. Poe), “Some Words with a Mummy,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. III: Tales and Sketches (1978), pp. 1175-1201 (This material is protected by copyright)


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[page 1175:]

SOME WORDS WITH A MUMMY

In this story Poe made fun of the craze for Egyptology that swept our Eastern cities at the time he wrote, and incidentally he satirized the smug belief in Progress which he distrusted as fallacious.

Modern Egyptology began with the discovery in 1799 of the Rosetta Stone, inscribed in hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek characters, which provided a key to the decipherment of hieroglyphic inscriptions and thus to early Egyptian history. It was not until the second quarter of the nineteenth century, however, that the results of intensive study by devoted scholars, made possible by the work of J. F. Champollion, became available to the English-speaking public through Sir James Wilkinson’s Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians (2 v., 1837, 1841) and, in America, through the lectures of George Robins Gliddon. The excitement engendered by the new discoveries, presented as they were in comparison with familiar biblical accounts, was further stimulated by comments and controversy in the press.

One of the principal sources of Poe’s tale was Ancient Egypt, developed from lectures by Gliddon delivered in Boston in December 1842 and January 1843. First published as an Extra of the New World (numbers 68 and 69) early in April 1843, it was many times reprinted. Gliddon, born in England, had been for years consul of the United States in Cairo and was considered an authority on contemporary Egypt. He was deeply interested in Egyptian antiquities; about 1836 helped found the Egyptian Society of Cairo; and through personal contacts with visiting archeologists and correspondence had followed as well as he could — at his distance from the centers of scholarly publication — the progress of Egyptian studies. “It is the object of the present essay,” he said in his introductory chapter, “to give a summary of the RESULTS of Hieroglyphical researches, after a brief explanation of the process by which these results have been achieved.” During a stay in England in 1841 he had published an Appeal to the Antiquaries of Europe, on the Destruction of the Monuments of Egypt, deploring the reckless spoliation of tombs and temples to make way for “improvements” [page 1176:] under the “progressive” pasha Mohammed Ali.

Another significant source drawn on by Poe was an article in the Westminster Review for July 1841, quoted in the New York Journal of Commerce, September 2, 1841, and in the New-York Tribune of December 21. This article, in the course of discussing Wilkinson’s Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, Ippolito Rossellini’s notable and handsomely illustrated work on monuments of Egypt and Nubia (Pisa, 1840), and an anonymous Egyptian History deduced from Monuments still in existence (London, 1841), gives a great deal of detailed information from the works reviewed.

For other details, Poe made copious use of the Encyclopaedia Americana, especially the articles on “Mummies” and “Embalming.”*

Other sources have been suggested. As a boy Poe probably saw the mummy belonging to the Boston Medical College, when it was exhibited in the senate chamber of the Capitol at Richmond, beginning on December 23, 1823. The idea that the ancients were far more advanced scientifically than has generally been supposed was propounded by Louis Dutens in 1766. He believed they knew about electricity, telescopes, microscopes, and the circulation of the blood. Experiments in revival by galvanic batteries are discussed in “Loss of Breath,” and in “The Premature Burial.” Lucille King (cited above) found in the New-York Mirror, January 21, 1832, “A Letter from a Revived Mummy” which is a possible source for one feature of Poe’s story. The “Letter” tells of an English soldier, rendered insensible by a blow on the head, preserved in a museum in Brussels for a hundred years, and then sent to New York, where several efforts were made to revive him, the last being the application of a galvanic battery. At the third exhibition, the [page 1177:] mummy leaped to his feet, and shouted, “Hurrah for merry England!” The close parallel to Allamistakeo’s conduct when revived by Dr. Ponnonner is unmistakable.§

“Some Words with a Mummy” must have been finished in the fall or early winter of 1844, for it was named as accepted in the Columbian Magazine for January 1845. It did not appear there, however, but was later published in Colton’s American Review, which probably paid better.

TEXTS

(A) American Review: A Whig Journal, April 1845 (1:365-370); (B) Broadway Journal, November 1, 1845 (2:251-256); (C) Works (1850), II, 458-454.

The Broadway Journal text (B) is to be preferred, I believe, and is used here. The Griswold change of “astonished” for “ashamed” in Works (C) was probably auctorial, and I have adopted it as did my predecessors, Stedman and Woodberry, and Harrison in the Virginia edition.

SOME WORDS WITH A MUMMY.   [B]

THE SYMPOSIUM{a} of the preceding evening had been a little too much for my nerves. I had a wretched headache, and was desperately drowsy. Instead of going out, therefore, to spend the evening as I had proposed, it occurred to me that I could not do a wiser thing than just eat a mouthful of supper and go immediately to bed.

A light supper of course. I am exceedingly fond of Welsh rabbit.{b} More than a pound at once, however, may not {cc}at all times be{cc} advisable. Still, there can be no material objection to two. And [page 1178:] really between two and three, there is merely a single unit of difference. I ventured, perhaps, upon four. My wife will have it five; — but, clearly, she has confounded two very distinct affairs. The abstract number, five, I am willing to admit; but, concretely, it has reference to bottles of Brown Stout, without which, in the way of condiment, Welsh rabbit{d} is to be eschewed.(1)

Having thus concluded a frugal meal, and donned my night-cap, with the serene hope of enjoying it till{e} noon the next day, I placed my head upon the pillow, and through the aid of a capital conscience, fell into a profound slumber forthwith.

But when were the hopes of humanity fulfilled? I could not have completed my third snore when there came a furious ringing at the street-door bell, and then an impatient thumping at the knocker, which awakened me at once. In a minute afterward, and while I was still rubbing my eyes, my wife thrust in my face a note from my old friend, Doctor Ponnonner.(2) It ran thus:

Come to me by all means, my dear good friend, as soon as you receive this. Come and help us to rejoice. At last, by long persevering diplomacy, I have gained the assent of the Directors of the City Museum, to my examination of the Mummy — you know the one I mean.(3) I have permission to unswathe it and open it, if desirable. A few friends only will be present — you, of course. The Mummy is now at my house, and we shall begin to unroll it at eleven to-night.

Yours ever,  
PONNONNER.

By the time I had reached the “Ponnonner,” it struck me that I was as wide awake as a man need be. I leaped out of bed in an ecstasy, overthrowing all in my way; dressed myself with a rapidity truly marvellous; and set off, at the top of my speed, for the Doctor’s.

There I found a very eager company assembled. They had been awaiting me with much impatience; the Mummy was extended upon the dining table; and the moment I entered, its examination was commenced.

It was one of a pair brought, several years previously, by Captain [page 1179:] Arthur Sabretash,(4) a cousin of Ponnonner’s, from a tomb near Eleithias,(5) in the Lybian Mountains, a considerable distance above Thebes on the Nile. The grottoes at this point, although less magnificent than the Theban sepulchres, are of higher interest, on account of affording more numerous illustrations of the private life of the Egyptians. The chamber from which our specimen was taken, was said to be very rich in such illustrations; the walls being completely covered with fresco paintings and bas-reliefs, while statues, vases, and Mosaic work of rich patterns, indicated the vast wealth of the deceased.(6)

The treasure had been deposited in the Museum precisely in the same{f} condition in which Captain Sabretash had found it; — that is to say, the coffin had not been disturbed. For eight years it had thus stood, subject only externally to public inspection. We had now, therefore, the complete Mummy at our disposal; and to those who are aware how very rarely the unransacked antique reaches our shores, it will be evident, at once, that we had great reason to congratulate ourselves upon our good fortune.

Approaching the table, I saw on{g} it a large box, or case, nearly seven feet long, and perhaps three feet wide, by two feet and a half deep. It was oblong — not coffin-shaped. The material was at first supposed to be the wood of the sycamore (platanus),(7) but, upon cutting into it, we found it to be pasteboard, or more properly, papier maché, composed of papyrus. It was thickly ornamented with paintings, representing funeral scenes, and other mournful subjects, interspersed among which, in every variety of position, were certain series of hieroglyphical characters intended, no doubt, for the name of the departed. By good luck, Mr. Gliddon(8) formed one of our party; and he had no difficulty in translating the letters, which were simply phonetic,(9) and represented the word, Allamistakeo.

We had some difficulty in getting this case open without injury, but, having at length accomplished the task, we came to a second, coffin-shaped, and very considerably less in size than the exterior one, but resembling it precisely in every other respect. The interval [page 1180:] between the two was filled with resin, which had, in some degree, defaced the colors of the interior box.

Upon opening this latter (which we did quite easily,) we arrived at a third case, also coffin-shaped, and varying from the second one in no particular, except in that of its material, which was cedar, and still emitted the peculiar and highly aromatic odor of that wood. Between the second and the{h} third case there was no interval; the one fitting accurately within the other.

Removing the third case, we discovered and took out the body itself. We had expected to find it, as usual, enveloped in frequent rolls, or bandages, of linen, but, in place of these, we found a sort of sheath, made of papyrus, and coated with a layer of plaster, thickly gilt and painted. The paintings represented subjects connected with the various supposed duties of the soul, and its presentation to different divinities, with numerous identical human figures, intended, very probably, as portraits of the person{i} embalmed. Extending from head to foot, was a columnar, or perpendicular inscription in phonetic hieroglyphics, giving again his name and titles, and the names and titles of his relations.

Around the neck thus ensheathed,{j} was a collar of cylindrical glass beads, diverse in color, and so arranged as to form images of deities, of the scarabæus, etc., with the winged globe. Around the small of the waist was a similar collar, or belt.

Stripping off the papyrus, we found the flesh in excellent preservation, with no perceptible odor. The color was reddish. The skin was hard, smooth and glossy. The teeth and hair were in good condition. The eyes (it seemed) had been removed, and glass ones substituted, which were very beautiful and wonderfully life-like, with the exception of somewhat too determined a stare. The finger and toe{k} nails were brilliantly gilded.

Mr. Gliddon was of opinion, from the redness of the epidermis, that the embalmment{l} had been effected altogether by asphaltum; but, on{m} scraping the surface with a steel instrument, and throwing [page 1181:] into the fire some of the powder thus obtained, the flavor of camphor and other sweet-scented gums became apparent.

We searched the corpse very carefully for the usual openings through which the entrails are extracted, but, to our surprise, we could discover none. No member of the party was at that period aware that entire or unopened mummies are not unfrequently met. The brain it was customary to withdraw through the nose; the intestines through an incision in the side; the body was then shaved, washed, and salted; then laid aside for several weeks, when the operation of embalming, properly so called, began.

As no trace of an opening could be found, Doctor Ponnonner was preparing his instruments for dissection, when I observed that it was then past two o’clock. Hereupon it was agreed to postpone the internal examination until the next evening; and we were about to separate for the present, when some one suggested an experiment or two with the Voltaic pile.(10)

The application of electricity to a Mummy{n} three or four thousand years old at the least, was an idea, if not very sage, still sufficiently original, and we all caught at{o} it at once. About one tenth in earnest and nine tenths in jest, we arranged a battery in the Doctor’s study, and conveyed thither the Egyptian.

It was only after much trouble that we succeeded in laying bare some portions of the temporal muscle which appeared of less stony rigidity than other parts of the frame, but which, as we had anticipated, of course, gave no indication of galvanic susceptibility when brought in contact with the wire. This the first trial, indeed, seemed decisive, and, with a hearty laugh at our own absurdity, we were bidding each other good night, when my eyes, happening to fall upon those of the Mummy, were there immediately riveted in amazement. My brief glance, in fact, had sufficed to assure me that the orbs which we had all supposed to be glass, and which were originally noticeable for a certain wild stare, were now so far covered by the lids that only a small portion of the tunica albuginea remained visible.

With a shout I called attention to the fact, and it became immediately obvious to all. [page 1182:]

I cannot say that I was alarmed at the phenomenon, because “alarmed” is, in my case, not exactly the word. It is possible, however, that, but for the Brown Stout, I might have been a little nervous. As for the rest of the company, they really made no attempt at concealing the downright fright which possessed them. Doctor Ponnonner was a man to be pitied. Mr. Gliddon, by some peculiar process, rendered himself invisible. Mr. Silk Buckingham, I fancy, will scarcely be so bold as to deny that he made his way, upon all fours, under the table.(11)

After the first shock of astonishment, however, we resolved, as a matter of course, upon farther experiment forthwith. Our operations were now directed against the great toe of the right foot. We made an incision over the outside of the exterior os sesamoideum pollicis pedis, and thus got at the root of the abductor muscle. Re-adjusting the battery, we now applied the fluid to the bisected nerves — when, with a movement of exceeding life-likeness,{p} the Mummy first drew up its right knee so as to bring it nearly in{q} contact with the abdomen, and then, straightening the limb with inconceivable force, bestowed a kick upon Doctor Ponnonner which had the effect of discharging that gentleman, like an arrow from a catapult, through a window into the street below.(12)

We rushed out en masse to bring in the mangled remains of the victim, but had the happiness to meet him upon the staircase, coming up in an unaccountable hurry, brimfull of the most ardent philosophy, and more than ever impressed with the necessity of prosecuting our experiments with rigor and with zeal.

It was by his advice, accordingly, that we made, upon the spot, a profound incision into the tip of the subject’s nose, while the Doctor himself, laying violent hands upon it, pulled it into vehement contact with the wire.

Morally and physically — figuratively and literally — was the effect electric. In the first place, the corpse opened its eyes and winked very rapidly for several minutes, as does Mr. Barnes(13) in the pantomime; in the second place, it sneezed; in the third, it sat upon end; in the fourth, it shook its fist in Doctor Ponnonner’s [page 1183:] face; in the fifth, turning to Messieur{r} Gliddon and Buckingham, it addressed them, in very capital Egyptian, thus:

“I must say, gentlemen, that I am as much surprised as I am mortified, at your behaviour. Of Doctor Ponnonner nothing better was to be expected. He is a poor little fat fool who knows no better. I pity and forgive him. But you, Mr. Gliddon — and you, Silk — who have travelled and resided in Egypt until one might imagine you to the manor born(14) — you, I say, who have been so much among us that you speak Egyptian fully{ss} as well, I think, as{ss} you write your mother tongue — you, whom I have {tt}always been{tt} led to regard as the firm friend of the mummies — I really did anticipate more gentlemanly conduct from you. What am I to think of your standing quietly by and seeing me thus unhandsomely used? What am I to suppose by your permitting Tom, Dick and Harry to strip me of my coffins, and my clothes, in this wretchedly cold climate? In what light (to come to the point) am I to regard your aiding and abetting that miserable little villain, Doctor Ponnonner, in pulling me by the nose?”

It will be taken for granted, no doubt, that upon hearing this speech under the circumstances, we all either made for the door, or fell into violent hysterics, or went off in a general swoon. One of these things was, I say, to be expected. Indeed each and all of these lines of conduct might have been very plausibly pursued. And, upon my word, I am{u} at a loss to know{v} how or why it was that we pursued neither the one or{w} the other. But, perhaps, the true reason is to be sought in the spirit of the age, which proceeds by the rule of contraries altogether, and is now usually admitted as the solution of everything in the way of paradox and impossibility. Or, perhaps, after all, it was only the Mummy’s exceedingly natural and matter-of-course air that divested his words of the terrible. However this may be, the facts are clear, and no member of our party betrayed any very particular trepidation, or seemed to consider that any thing had gone very especially wrong.

For my part I was convinced it was all right, and merely stepped [page 1184:] aside, out of the range of the Egyptian’s fist. Doctor Ponnonner thrust his hands into his breeches’ pockets, looked hard at the Mummy, and grew excessively red in the face. Mr. Gliddon stroked his whiskers and drew up the collar of his shirt. Mr. Buckingham hung down his head, and put his right thumb into the left corner of his mouth.

The Egyptian regarded him with a severe countenance for some minutes, and at length, with a sneer, said:

“Why don’t you speak, Mr. Buckingham? Did you hear what I asked you, or not? Do take your thumb out of your mouth!”{x}

Mr. Buckingham, hereupon, gave a slight start, took his right thumb out of the left corner of his mouth, and, by way of indemnification, inserted his{y} left thumb in the right corner of the aperture above-mentioned.

Not being able to get an answer from Mr. B., the figure turned peevishly to Mr. Gliddon, and, in a peremptory tone, demanded in general terms what we all meant.

Mr. Gliddon replied at great length, in phonetics; and but for the deficiency of{z} American printing-offices in hieroglyphical type, it would afford me much pleasure to record here, in the original, the whole of his very excellent{a} speech.

I may as well take this occasion to remark, that all the subsequent conversation in which the Mummy took a part, was carried on in{b} primitive Egyptian, through the medium (so far as concerned myself and{c} other untravelled members of the company) — through the medium. I say, of Messieurs{d} Gliddon and Buckingham as interpreters. These gentlemen spoke the mother-tongue of the mummy with inimitable fluency and grace; but I could not help observing that (owing, no doubt, to the introduction of images entirely modern, and, of course, entirely novel to the stranger,) the two travelers were reduced, occasionally, to the employment of sensible forms for the purpose of conveying a particular meaning. Mr. Gliddon, at one period, for example, could not make the [page 1185:] Egyptian comprehend the term “politics,” until he sketched upon the wall, with a bit of charcoal, a little carbuncle-nosed gentleman, out at elbows, standing upon a stump, with his left leg drawn back, his right arm thrown forward, with the{e} fist shut, the eyes rolled up toward Heaven, and the mouth open at an angle of ninety degrees. Just in the same way Mr. Buckingham failed to convey the absolutely modern idea, “wig,”{f} until, (at Doctor Ponnonner’s suggestion,) he grew very pale in the face, and consented to take off his own.(15)

It will be readily understood that Mr. Gliddon’s discourse turned chiefly upon the vast benefits accruing to science from the unrolling and disembowelling of mummies; apologizing, upon this score, for any disturbance that might have been occasioned him, in particular, the individual Mummy called Allamistakeo; and concluding with a mere hint, (for it could scarcely be considered more,) that, as these little matters were now explained, it might be as well to proceed with the investigation intended. Here Doctor Ponnonner made ready his instruments.

In regard to the latter suggestions of the orator, it appears that Allamistakeo had certain scruples of conscience, the nature of which I did not distinctly learn; but he expressed himself satisfied with the apologies tendered, and, getting down from the table, shook hands with the company all round.

When this ceremony was at an end, we immediately busied ourselves in repairing the damages which our subject had sustained from the scalpel. We sewed up the wound in his temple, bandaged his foot, and applied a square inch of black plaster to the tip of his nose.

It was now observed that the Count, (this was the title, it seems, of Allamistakeo,) had a slight fit of shivering — no doubt from the cold. The doctor immediately repaired to his wardrobe, and soon returned with a black dress coat, made in Jennings’ best manner,(16) a pair of sky-blue plaid pantaloons with straps, a pink gingham chemise, a flapped vest of brocade, a white sack overcoat, a walking cane with a hook, a hat with no brim, patent-leather boots, straw-colored [page 1186:] kid gloves, an eye-glass, a pair of whiskers, and a waterfall cravat. Owing to the disparity of size between the Count and{g} doctor, (the proportion being as two to one,) there was some little difficulty in adjusting these habiliments upon the person of the Egyptian; but when all was arranged, he might have been said to be dressed. Mr. Gliddon, therefore, gave him his arm, and led him to a comfortable chair by the fire, while the doctor rang the bell upon the spot and ordered a supply of cigars and wine.

The conversation soon grew animated. Much curiosity was, of course, expressed in regard to the somewhat remarkable fact of Allamistakeo’s still remaining alive.

“I should have thought,” observed Mr. Buckingham, “that it is high time you were dead.”

“Why,” replied the Count, very much astonished, “I am little more than seven hundred years old. My father lived a thousand, and was by no means in his dotage when he died.”

Here ensued a brisk series of questions and computations, by means of which it became evident that the antiquity of the Mummy had been grossly misjudged. It had been five thousand and fifty years, and some months, since he had been consigned to the catacombs at Eleithias.(17)

“But my remark,” resumed Mr. Buckingham, “had no reference to your age at the period of interment; (I am willing to grant, in fact, that you are still a young man,) and my allusion was to the immensity of time during which, by your own showing, you must have been done up in asphaltum.”

“In what?” said the Count.

“In asphaltum,” persisted Mr. B.

“Ah, yes; I have some faint notion of what you mean; it might be made to answer, no doubt, — but in my time we employed scarcely anything else than the Bichloride of Mercury.”(16)

“But what we are especially at a loss to understand,” said Doctor Ponnonner, “is how it happens that, having been dead and buried in Egypt five thousand years ago, you are here to-day all alive, and looking so delightfully well.” [page 1187:]

“Had I been, as you say, dead,” replied the Count, “it is more than probable that dead I should still be; for I perceive you are yet in the infancy of Galvanism, and cannot accomplish with it what was a common thing among us in the old days. But the fact is, I fell into catalepsy, and it was considered by my best friends that I was either dead or should be; they accordingly embalmed me at once — I presume you are aware of the chief principle of the embalming process?”

“Why, not altogether.”

“Ah, I perceive; — a deplorable condition of ignorance! Well, I cannot enter into details just now: but it is necessary to explain that to embalm, (properly speaking,) in Egypt, was to arrest indefinitely all the animal functions subjected to the process. I use the word “animal” in its widest sense, as including the physical not more than the moral and vital being. I repeat that the leading principle of embalmment{h} consisted, with us, in the immediately arresting, and holding in perpetual abeyance, all the animal functions subjected to the process. To be brief, in whatever condition the individual was, at the period of embalmment,{i} in that condition he remained. Now, as it is my good fortune to be of the blood of the Scarabæus,{j} I was embalmed alive, as you see me at present.”(19)

“The blood{k} of the Scarabæus!”(20) exclaimed Doctor Ponnonner.

“Yes. The Scarabæus was the insignium, or{l} the “arms,” of a very distinguished and a{m} very rare patrician family. To be “of the blood of the Scarabæus,” is merely to be one of that family of which the Scarabæus is the insignium.(21) I speak figuratively.”

“But what has this to do with your being alive?”

“Why it is the general custom, in Egypt, to deprive a corpse, before embalmment,{n} of its bowels and brains; the race of the Scarabæi alone did not coincide with the custom. Had I not been a Scarabæus, therefore, I should have been without bowels and brains; and without either it is inconvenient to live.” [page 1188:]

“I perceive that;” said Mr. Buckingham, “and I presume that all the entire mummies that come to hand are of the race of Scarabæi.”

“Beyond doubt.”

“I thought,” said Mr. Gliddon very meekly, “that the Scarabæus was one of the Egyptian gods.”

“One of the Egyptian what?” exclaimed the Mummy, starting to its feet.

“Gods!” repeated the traveler.

“Mr. Gliddon, I really am astonished{o} to hear you talk in this style,” said the Count, resuming his chair. “No nation upon the face of the earth has ever acknowledged more than{p} one god. The Scarabæus, the Ibis, etc., were with us, (as similar creatures have been with others) the symbols, or media, through which we offered worship to a{q} Creator too august to be more directly approached.”(22)

There was here a pause. At length the colloquy was renewed by Doctor Ponnonner.

“It is not improbable, then, from what you have explained,” said he, “that among the catacombs near the Nile, there may exist other mummies of the Scarabæus tribe, in a condition of vitality.”

“There can be no question of it,” replied the Count; “all the Scarabæi embalmed accidentally while alive, are alive now.{r} Even some of those purposely so embalmed, may have been overlooked by their executors, and still remain in the tombs.”

“Will you he kind enough to explain,” I said, “what you mean by ‘purposely so embalmed’?”

“With great pleasure,” answered the Mummy, after surveying me leisurely through his eye-glass — for it was the first time I had ventured to address him a direct question.

“With great pleasure,” said he.{s} “The usual duration of man’s life, in my time, was about eight hundred years. Few men died, unless by most extraordinary accident, before the age of six hundred; few lived longer than a decade of centuries; but eight were [page 1189:] considered the natural term.(23) After the discovery of the embalming principle, as I have already described it to you, it occurred to our philosophers that a laudable curiosity might be gratified, and, at the same time, the interests of science much advanced, by living this natural term in instalments. In the case of history, indeed, experience demonstrated that something of this kind was indispensable. An{t} historian, for example, having attained the age of five hundred, would write a book with great labor and then get himself carefully embalmed; leaving instructions to his executors pro tem., that they should cause him to be revivified after the lapse of a certain period — say five or six hundred years. Resuming existence at the expiration of this term,{u} he would invariably find his great work converted into a species of hap-hazard note-book — that is to say, into a kind of literary arena for the conflicting guesses, riddles, and personal squabbles of whole herds of exasperated commentators. These guesses, etc., which passed under the name of annotations or emendations, were found so completely to have enveloped, distorted, and overwhelmed the text, that the author had to go about with a lantern(24) to discover his own book. When discovered, it was never worth the trouble of the search.(25) After re-writing it throughout, it was regarded as the bounden duty of the historian to set himself to work, immediately,{v} in correcting from his own private knowledge and experience, the traditions of the day concerning the epoch at which he had originally lived. Now this process of re-scription and personal rectification, pursued by various individual sages, from time to time, had the effect of preventing our history from degenerating into absolute fable.”

“I beg your pardon,” said Doctor Ponnonner at this point, laying his hand gently upon the arm of the Egyptian — “I beg your pardon, sir, but may I presume to interrupt you for one moment?”

“By all means, sir,” replied the Count, drawing up.

“I merely wished to ask you a question,” said the Doctor. “You mentioned the historian’s personal correction of traditions respecting [page 1190:] his own epoch. Pray, sir, upon an average, what proportion of these Kabbala were usually found to be right?”(26)

“The Kabbala, as you properly term them, sir, were generally discovered to be precisely on a par with the facts recorded in the un-re-written histories themselves; — that is to say, not one individual iota of either, was ever known, under any circumstances, to be not totally and radically wrong.”

“But since{w} it is quite clear,” resumed the Doctor, “that at least five thousand years have elapsed since your entombment, I take it for granted that your histories at that period, if not your traditions, were sufficiently explicit on that one topic of universal interest, the Creation, which took place, as I presume you are aware, only about ten centuries before.”(27)

“Sir!” said{x} Count Allamistakeo.

The Doctor repeated his remarks, but it was only after much additional explanation, that the foreigner could be made to comprehend them. The latter at length said, hesitatingly:

“The ideas you have suggested are to me, I confess, utterly novel. During my time I never knew any one to entertain so singular a fancy as that the universe (or this world if you will have it so) ever had a beginning at all. I remember, once, and once only, hearing something remotely hinted, by a man of many speculations, concerning the origin of the human race; and by this individual the very word Adam, (or Red Earth) which you make use of, was employed.(28) He employed it, however, in a generical sense, with reference to the{y} spontaneous germination from rank soil (just as a thousand of the lower genera of creatures are germinated) — the spontaneous germination, I say, of five vast hordes of men, simultaneously upspringing in five distinct and nearly equal divisions of the globe.”(29)

Here, in general, the company shrugged their shoulders, and one or two of us touched our foreheads with a very significant air. Mr. Silk Buckingham, first glancing slightly at the occiput and then at the sinciput{z} of Allamistakeo, spoke as follows: — [page 1191:]

“The long duration of human life in your time, together with the occasional practice of passing it, as you have explained, in instalments, must have had, indeed, a strong tendency to the general development and conglomeration of knowledge. I presume, therefore, that we are to attribute the marked inferiority of the old Egyptians in all particulars of science, when compared with the moderns, and more especially with the Yankees, altogether to the superior solidity of the Egyptian skull.”

“I confess again,” replied the Count with much suavity, “that I am somewhat at a loss to comprehend you; pray, to what particulars of science do you allude?”

Here our whole party, joining voices, detailed, at great length, the assumptions of phrenology and the marvels of animal magnetism.

Having heard us to an end, the Count proceeded to relate a few anecdotes, which rendered it evident that prototypes of Gall and Spurzheim(30) had flourished and faded in Egypt so long ago as to have been nearly forgotten, and that the manœuvres of Mesmer{a} were really very contemptible tricks when put in collation with the positive miracles of the Theban savans, who created lice and a great many other similar things.(31)

I here asked the Count if his people were able to calculate eclipses. He smiled rather contemptuously, and said they were.(32)

This put me a little out, but I began to make other inquiries in regard to his astronomical knowledge, when a member of the company, who had never as yet opened his mouth, whispered in my ear that, for information on this head, I had better consult Ptolemy, (whoever Ptolemy is) as well as one Plutarch de facie lunæ.(33)

I then questioned the Mummy about burning-glasses and lenses, and, in general, about the manufacture of glass; but I had not made an end of my queries before the silent member again touched me quietly on the elbow, and begged me for God’s sake to take a peep at Diodorus Siculus. As for the Count, he merely asked me, in the way of reply, if we moderns possessed any such microscopes as would enable us to cut cameos in the style of the [page 1192:] Egyptians. While I was thinking how I should answer this question, little Doctor Ponnonner committed himself in a very extraordinary way.

“Look at our architecture!” He exclaimed, greatly to the indignation of both the travelers, who pinched him black and blue to no purpose.

“Look,” he cried with enthusiasm, “at the Bowling-Green Fountain in New York! or if this be too vast a contemplation, regard for a moment the Capitol at Washington, D. C.!” — and the good little medical man went on to detail very minutely the proportions of the fabric to which he referred. He explained that the portico alone was adorned with no less than four and twenty columns, five feet in diameter, and ten feet apart.(34)

The Count said that he regretted not being able to remember, just at that moment, the precise dimensions of any one of the principal buildings of the city of Aznac,(35) whose foundations were laid in the night of Time, but the ruins of which were still standing, at the epoch of his entombment, in a vast plain of sand to the westward of Thebes. He recollected, however, (talking of porticoes) that one affixed to an inferior palace in a kind of suburb called Carnac, consisted of a hundred and forty-four columns, thirty-seven feet each in circumference, and twenty-five{b} feet apart. The approach to{c} this portico, from the Nile, was through an avenue two miles long, composed of sphynxes, statues and obelisks, twenty, sixty, and a hundred feet in height. The palace itself (as well as he could remember) was, in one direction, two miles long, and might have been, altogether, about seven in circuit. Its walls were richly painted all over, within and without, with hieroglyphics. He would not pretend to assert that even fifty or sixty of the Doctor’s Capitols might have been built within these walls, but he was by no means sure that two or three hundred of them might not have been squeezed in with some trouble. That palace at Carnac was an insignificant little building after all. He, (the Count) however, could not conscientiously refuse to admit the ingenuity, magnificence, and superiority of the Fountain [page 1193:] at the Bowling-Green, as described by the Doctor. Nothing like it, he was forced to allow, had ever been seen in Egypt or elsewhere.

I here asked the Count what he had to say to our railroads.

“Nothing,” he replied, “in particular.” They were rather slight, rather ill-conceived, and clumsily put together. They could not be compared, of course, with the vast, level, direct, iron-grooved causeways, upon which the Egyptians conveyed entire temples and solid obelisks of a hundred and fifty feet in altitude.

I spoke of our gigantic mechanical forces.

He agreed that we knew something in that way, but inquired how I should have gone to work in getting up the imposts on the lintels of even the little palace at Carnac.

This question I concluded not to hear, and demanded if he had any idea of Artesian wells; but he simply raised his eye-brows; while Mr. Gliddon{d} winked at me very hard, and said, in a low tone, that one had been recently discovered by the engineers employed to bore for water in the Great Oasis.

I then mentioned our steel; but the foreigner elevated his nose, and asked me if our steel could have executed the sharp carved{e} work seen on the obelisks, and which was wrought altogether by edge-tools of copper.(36)

This disconcerted us so greatly that we thought it advisable to vary the attack to Metaphysics. We sent for a copy of a book called the “Dial,”(37) and read out of it a chapter or two about something which is not very clear, but which the Bostonians call the Great Movement or Progress.

The Count merely said that Great Movements were awfully common things in his day, and as for Progress it was {ff}at one time{ff} quite a nuisance, but it never progressed.

We then spoke of the great beauty and importance of Democracy, and were at much trouble in impressing the Count with a due sense of the advantages we enjoyed in living where there was suffrage ad libitum, and no king. [page 1194:]

He listened with marked interest, and in fact seemed not a little amused. When we had done, he said that, a great while ago, there had occurred something of a very similar sort. Thirteen Egyptian provinces determined all at once to be free, and so set a magnificent example to the rest of mankind. They assembled their wise men, and concocted the most ingenious constitution it is possible to conceive. For a while they managed remarkably well; only their habit of bragging was prodigious. The thing ended, however, in the consolidation of the thirteen states, with some fifteen or twenty others, into{g} the most odious and insupportable despotism that ever was heard of upon the face of the Earth.

I asked what was the name of the usurping tyrant.

As well as the Count could recollect, it was Mob.(38)

Not knowing what to say to this, I raised my voice, and deplored the Egyptian ignorance of steam.

The Count looked at me with much astonishment, but made no answer. The silent gentleman, however, gave me a violent nudge in the ribs with his elbows — told me I had sufficiently exposed myself for once — and demanded if I was really such a fool as not to know that the modern steam engine is derived from the invention of Hero, through Solomon de Caus.(39)

We were now in imminent danger of being discomfited; but, as good luck would have it, Doctor Ponnonner, having rallied, returned to our rescue, and inquired if the people of Egypt would seriously pretend to rival the moderns in the all-important particular of dress.

The Count, at this, glanced downward{h} to the straps of his pantaloons, and then, taking hold of the{i} end of one of his coat-tails, held it up close to his eyes for some minutes. Letting it fall, at last, his mouth extended itself very gradually from ear to ear; but I do not{j} remember that he said anything in the way of reply.

Hereupon we recovered our spirits, and the Doctor, approaching the mummy with great dignity, desired it to say candidly, upon its honor as a gentleman, if the Egyptians had comprehended, [page 1195:] at any period, the manufacture of either Ponnonner’s lozenges, or Brandreth’s pills.(40)

We looked, with profound anxiety, for an answer; — but in vain. It was not forthcoming. The Egyptian blushed and hung down his head. Never was triumph more consummate; never was defeat borne with so ill a grace. Indeed I could not endure the spectacle of the poor Mummy’s mortification. I reached my hat, bowed to him stiffly, and took leave.

Upon getting home I found it past four o’clock, and went immediately to bed.{k} It is now ten, A.M. I have been up since seven, penning these memoranda for the benefit of my family and of mankind. The former I shall behold no more. My wife is a shrew. The truth is, I am heartily sick of this life and of the nineteenth century in general. I am convinced that everything is going wrong. Besides, I am anxious to know who will be President in 2045. As soon, therefore, as I shave and swallow a cup of coffee, I shall just step over to Ponnonner’s and get embalmed for a couple of hundred years.

 


VARIANTS

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1177:]

a  symposium (C)

b  rarebit. (A)

cc . . . cc  be at all times (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1178:]

d  rarebit (A)

e  until (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1179:]

f  Omitted (A)

g  upon (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1180:]

h  Omitted (A)

i  persons (B, C) misprint, corrected from A

j  unsheathed, (C) misprint

k  the (B, C) misprint, corrected from A

l  embalment (B, C) misprint

m  upon (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1181:]

n  Mummy some (A)

o  Omitted (C)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1182:]

p  life-likeliness, (A)

q  into (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1183:]

r  Messiurs (B) misprint

ss . . . ss  as well as (A)

tt . . . tt  been always (A)

u  am somewhat (A)

v  explain (A)

w  nor (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1184:]

x  mouth.” (A)

y  the (A)

z  of the (A)

a  capital (A)

b  in the (A)

c  and the (A)

d  Messiurs (B) misprint

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1185:]

e  his (C)

f  “whig,” (C)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1186:]

g  and the (A, C)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1187:]

h  embalment (B, C) misprint

i  embalment, (B, C) misprint

j  Scarabœus, (A, B, C) With the exception of the first occurrence in paragraph 13, all texts have this form. All have been corrected, as have the plural forms

k  bloood (C) misprint

l  on (A)

m  Omitted (C)

n  embalment, (B, C) misprint

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1188:]

o  ashamed (A, B)

p  than the (A)

q  the (A, C)

r  alive now. / alive. (C)

s  said he. / he said. (C)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1189:]

t  A (A)

u  time, (C)

v  forthwith, (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1190:]

w  as (A)

x  said the (C)

y  Omitted (A)

z  siniciput (B, C) misprint, corrected from A

[The following variant appears at the bottom of page 1191:]

a  Mesmerism (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1192:]

b  twent-five (A) misprint

c  of (C)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1193:]

d  Gliddon, (A, B) comma deleted to follow C

e  curved (B) misprint, corrected from A, B

ff . . . ff  Omitted (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1194:]

g  in (C)

h  downwards (C)

i  the extreme (A)

j  do not / don’t (A)

[The following variants appear at the bottom of page 1195:]

k  to bed. / to-bed. (C) misprint

 


[page 1195, continued:]

NOTES

1.  A Welsh rabbit, made of melted cheese, was generally considered indigestible and conducive of nightmares. This is Poe’s hint to matter-of-fact readers that the story is all a dream. Brown stout is defined in the Century Dictionary as a superior kind of porter.

2.  Ponnonner is obviously “ ‘Pon honor!”

3.  There was no “City Museum” in New York when Poe’s tale was written, but P. T. Barnum, buying out two rival privately owned establishments, had opened his long-famous American Museum early in 1842.

4.  Captain Sabretash may owe his name to a series of articles in Fraser’s Magazine, March 1838, January and August 1839, addressed to Oliver Yorke, the mythical editor of Fraser’s, by “Captain Orlando Sabertash” (Major General John Mitchell, 1785-1859) [or to a column called “Gayeties and Gravities” in the New-York Mirror, November 12, 1842, signed “Captain Sabretash”; this note courtesy of B. Pollin]. A sabretache (variously spelled) according to the OED is a leather satchel suspended on the left side by long straps from the sword belt of a cavalry officer. The OED quotes an example from Lever, Charles O’Malley, which was reviewed by Poe in Graham’s, March 1842.

5.  The city was called Nuben by the Ancient Egyptians, by the Greeks usually Eileithyia, and is now El Kab. [page 1196:]

6.  Most of the details in this paragraph and the next nine come from the article “Mummies” in the Encyclopaedia Americana (1836), vol. IX, pp. 89-90, quoted here:

“Numerous caves or grottoes [containing mummies and artifacts] are found in the two mountainous ridges which run nearly parallel with the Nile from Cairo to Syene. Some of the most remarkable of these tombs are those in the vicinity of ancient Thebes, in the Lybian mountains, many of which were examined by Belzoni, and those near Eleithias (described by Hamilton), farther up the river, which, though less splendid than Theban sepulchres, contain more illustrations of the private life of the Egyptians. The sepulchral chambers are almost entirely covered with fresco paintings and bass-reliefs, and frequently contain statues, vases, &c . . . . Those of private individuals vary according to the wealth of the deceased, but are often very richly ornamented. Many of these tombs have been ransacked by Arabs for the purpose of plunder, and great numbers of the mummies destroyed for the rosin or asphaltum they contain, which is sold to advantage in Cairo . . .

“The bodies of the rich and the great underwent the most complicated operations, and were laboriously adorned with all kinds of ornaments. Embalmers of different ranks and duties extracted the brain through the nostril, and the entrails through an incision in the side; the body was then shaved, washed, and salted, and, after a certain period, the process of embalming [see n. 18, below], properly speaking, began. The whole body was then steeped in balsam, and wrapped up in linen bandages; each finger and toe was separately enveloped, or sometimes sheathed in a gold case, and the nails were often gilded. The bandages were then folded round each of the limbs, and finally round the whole body, to the number of 15-20 thicknesses. The head was the object of particular attention; it was sometimes enveloped in several folds of fine muslin; the first was glued to the skin, and the others to the first; the whole was then coated with a fine plaster. A collar of cylindrical glass beads of different colors, is attached to the mask which covers the head, and with it is connected a tunic of the same material. The beads, both in the collar and tunic, are so arranged as to form images of divinities, of the scarabaus, the winged globe, &c. Instead of this, the mummy is sometimes contained in a sort of sheath, made of paper or linen, and coated with a layer of plaster, on which are paintings and gilding. These paintings represent subjects relating to the duties of the soul, its presentation to the different divinities; and a perpendicular hieroglyphical inscription in the centre gives the name of the deceased, and of his relations, his titles, &c. The whole is then placed in the coffin. Those mummies which have been examined present very different appearances. One class has an opening in the left side, under the armpit, and in another the body is whole. Some of those which have been opened have been dried by vegetable and balsamic substances, others by salt. In the former case, aromatic gums or asphaltum were used (the gums, when thrown into the fire, give out an aromatic odor); in these the teeth and hair are generally preserved; but if exposed to the air, they are soon affected. Those prepared with asphalt are of a reddish color and are in good preservation . . . The coffin is usually of sycamore, cedar, or pasteboard; the case is entire, and covered, within and without, by paintings, representing funeral scenes, and a great variety of other subjects: the name of the deceased is also repeated on them in hieroglyphic characters. The [page 1197:] cover, which is also entire, is ornamented in the same manner, and contains, too, the countenance of the deceased in relief, painted, and often gilded. The breast is covered with a large collar; a perpendicular inscription occupies the centre, and funeral scenes the sides. The coffin is often enclosed in a second, and even third case, each of which is also ornamented with similar representations.”

7.  The American sycamore is Platanus occidentalis; the Egyptian tree is Ficus sycamorus.

8.  For Gliddon, who may have been in New York when Poe’s tale was written, see the introduction above.

9.  Poe is right about phonetic characters. From the earliest times the Egyptians, who employed several hundred hieroglyphics, had a complete set that could represent specific sounds (what we now term phonemes) although they did not abandon pictograms — and ideograms (see Glidden’s Ancient Egypt, pp. 6-7).

10.  For the Voltaic Pile see “The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade,” n. 37.

11.  Compare the conduct of Dr. Maillard in “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether.” James Silk Buckingham (1786-1855), after some years as a journalist in India, traveled extensively in the Near East and published books on his travels in Palestine (1822), Syria (1825), Mesopotamia (1827), Assyria, Media, and Persia (1830). Returning to England, he became an active proponent of social reforms and of temperance, was a member of Parliament for Sheffield, 1832-1837, then spent nearly four years traveling and lecturing in America. He subsequently published America: Historical, Descriptive, and Statistic, including a Journey through the Northern or Free States (1841); The Slave States of America (1842); The Eastern and Western States of America (1842), and similar descriptions of his travels in Canada. Poe mentioned him with respect among authors of “valuable books of eastern travel” in his review of J. L. Stephens’ Arabia Petraea (New York Review, October 1837), but something [probably, as Burton Pollin points out in his paper cited in the introduction above, Buckingham’s harsh criticism of slavery and the attitude toward it in the Southern states] antagonized Poe; who later referred to Buckingham only contemptuously. See “Mellonta Tauta” for other references.

12.  When Dr. Andrew Ure, of Glasgow, applied the galvanic battery to a man who had been hanged, one leg was thrown out so as almost to overturn an assistant, one spectator fainted, and others fled. The reference to the medico’s account of this in The Medical Repository, January 1820, was given by Robert Lee Rhea in University of Texas Studies (1930), 10:145f.

13.  John Barnes was a celebrated comedian at the Park Theatre, New York, and elsewhere, for at least twenty-five years before 1841. Odell (Annals of the New York Stage, IV, 67) calls him a low comedian and says of him in 1836, “Two more concienceless gaggers and muggers never played together than Reeve and Barnes . . . audiences howled their joy.”

14.  Compare Hamlet, I, iv, 14-16:

But to my mind, though I am a native here

And to the manner born, it is a custom

More honor’d in the breach than the observance. [page 1198:]

Manner here is sometimes understood as manor (which was formerly also spelled manner), and is often changed to manor in the quotation to make the phrase applicable to locality” — Century Dictionary.

15.  The change to “whig” in Griswold’s text may be a misprint or may be an intentional pun related to “politics” — another example of Poe’s “mystification.” The Westminster Review article, p. 11, devotes a whole paragraph to “Barber-Surgeons,” including the following statement:

To prove the proficiency in their art of the Theban perruquiers, we need only to refer to the specimen which may be seen in the British Museum . . . It is in an entire state of preservation, as if it came yesterday from the barber’s shop. It exactly resembles the wigs worn by females of quality, delineated on the tombs, as also on the female Egyptian statues. It is of immense size; as large as those worn by fashionable gallants in the time of Charles II, or by our learned judges (often to their great annoyance) at the present time. It is of a glossy auburn, and differs from the modern style in having the plaits beneath and the ringlets above.

16.  William T. Jennings & Co., 231 Broadway, at the American Hotel, opposite the Park Fountain, New York, ran what is called by N. P. Willis (New Mirror, January 27, 1844), “the emporium of ‘bang-up’ toggery,” and dealt in ready-made clothes, at low cash prices.

17.  Allamistakeo was entombed in 3204 B.C. Deciphering the hieroglyphic inscriptions had made it possible to push back Egyptian history for literally thousands of years.

18.  See the following excerpt from the article “Embalming” in the Encyclopaedia Americana (1836), vol. IV, p. 487:

The intestines are taken out of the body, and the brains out of the head, and the cavities filled up with a mixture of balsamic herbs, myrrh and others of the same kind; the large blood-vessels and other vessels are injected with balsams dissolved in spirits of wine; the body is rubbed hard with spirits of the same kind, &c. (See Mummies.) The ancient Egyptians removed the viscera from the large cavities; and replaced them with aromatic, saline and bituminous substances, and also enveloped the outside of the body in cloths impregnated with similar materials . . . Impregnation of the animal body with corrosive sublimate appears to be the most effectual means of preserving it, excepting immersion in spirits. The impregnation is performed by the injection of a strong solution, consisting of about four ounces of bichloride of mercury to a pint of alcohol, into the blood-vessels, and, after the viscera are removed, the body is immersed, for three months, in the same solution, after which it dries easily, and is almost imperishable.

(The actual injection of such a solution into a living body would of course be fatal.)

19.  I find that one Dr. Grusselbach of Upsala seriously discussed live embalming. My source is a note in the Berrien County Record of Buchanan, Michigan, February 3, 1870. The story may, like so many newspaper fillers, be far older, and may even perhaps have been known to Poe.

20.  Scarabaeus is a genus of Old World beetles, one of which, Scarabaeus [page 1199:] sacer, through its habit of rolling a ball of dung across the sand to its burrow, came to be popularly associated with the sun-god Khepri (from khepes, “to bring into existence”), who rolled the sun across the sky. The beetle, called the kheper beetle, provided the hieroglyph for the sun-god’s name. Stone representations of the insect, called scarabs, were the commonest amulets in Egypt. Tens of thousands are still in existence. (See “The Gold-Bug” for a living scarab.)

21.  The word insignium is incorrect; the singular of insignia should be insigne, but Poe may never have seen it.

22.  Poe’s discussion of Egyptian monotheism is based on statements of Egyptologists of his day. The early Egyptians had a set of three major and six minor divinities for each district. When Egypt was united, at the dawn of history, there was much identification, and indeed the sun was the chief god almost everywhere. The hymn of Akhnaten to the Solar Disc, Aten, as sole divinity, was not known in Poe’s day, but that differs far less radically than many modem historians suppose from the texts in honor of Amon-Ra, the sun-god of Thebes, with whose powerful priesthood Akhnaten quarreled. Philosophical Egyptians held a basically monotheistic view, but to what extent ordinary folk regarded gods as individuals is not sure. The sacred animals, that so amazed such Romans as Juvenal, were in some cases theophanies — a divinity sometimes taking residence in a living body. The Egyptian religion was highly ethical, and human sacrifice was abhorred by the time of the pyramid builders.

23.  See Genesis 5 for the ages of the antediluvian patriarchs. In the Septuagint, some of the ages are given differently, allowing more time for early history.

24.  The allusion — going about with a lantern — is to the story that Diogenes of Sinope, the Cynic, went about Athens by day with a lantern, searching for someone meriting the name of a man. See Diogenes Laertius, VI, “Diogenes,” Section 6. The story is usually told that he sought “an honest man.”

25.  Remarks on the unreliability of historians are commonplace. On April 18, 1775, Johnson, as Boswell records, said, “all the colouring, all the philosophy of history is conjecture.” In the Curiosities of Literature (9th edition, 1834, II, 179), ” ’Critical Sagacity’ and ‘Happy Conjecture’ or, Bentley’s Milton,” Isaac D’Israeli writes of “that ‘true conjectural critic’ whose practice a Portuguese satirist so greatly admired: by which means, if he be only followed up by future editors, we might have that immaculate edition, in which little or nothing should be found of the original!”

26.  The Kabbala is a mystic commentary on the Talmud; Poe uses the term here and elsewhere as a type of the mysterious or incredible. See n. 1 on “The Imp of the Perverse.”

27.  The date 4004 B.C. was set by James Ussher (1581-1656), Archbishop of Armagh, who worked out in his Annales Veteris et Novi Testamenti a biblical chronology, standard in authorized editions of the English Bible for more than two centuries. Gliddon, in his Ancient Egypt (p. 33) sought tactfully to win the pious to accept the evidence of the new discoveries that human history extends much farther into the past by citing tables prepared by “the learned Hales” (William, professor of oriental languages at Trinity College, Dublin) to show that [page 1200:] “for the three most important events recorded in the Old Testament, i.e., the Creation, the Deluge, and the Exodus, the inquirer after truth is lost in a chaos of 300 different, published human opinions on the eras of the same events; opinions conflicting with each other!”

28.  Gliddon, pp. 28-29, reproduces from Champollion’s Grammaire egyptienne (1836-41) a picture accompanied by hieroglyphic text translated as “Knum, the Creator, on his wheel moulds the divine members of Osiris (the type of man) in the shining house of life.” Gliddon comments, “He moulds man; in Hebrew, ADAM, the first man, meaning both man and red earth, or clay,” and compares Isaiah 64:8, “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” Red earth as the meaning of Adam is given by Byron in The Deformed Transformed, I, i, 385, and a footnote.

29.  For spontaneous generation see Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, V, 797-798. Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840), professor at Göttingen — called the founder of physical anthropology — in the second edition (1781) of his treatise On the Natural Variety of Mankind named the five principal races as the Caucasian, Asiatic, American, Ethiopian, and Malay — a division long standard.

30.  Gall and Spurzheim wrote on phrenology; Mesmer on animal magnetism. See “The Imp of the Perverse,” n. 2, and “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains,” introduction and n. 3.

31.  For the Theban savans, compare the magicians in Exodus 8.

32.  With this and the next three paragraphs compare the Westminster Review article; p. 32; commenting on the eighteenth Theban dynasty:

The practical, chemical, astronomical, and mechanical knowledge which they shared with the priestly (scientific) colleges was in some respects equal to, in some respects greater than, our own. They made glass in great profusion (Diodorus Siculus), and burning glasses and lenses for telescopes. They must have cut their delicate cameos by the aid of microscopes. Ptolemy describes an astrolobe; they calculated eclipses; they said that the moon was diversified by sea and land (Plutarch de facie lunae).

33.  Claudius Ptolemaeus, the geographer and astronomer (second century A.D.), was born and studied in Egypt. The treatise of Plutarch is “On the face of the moon.”

34.  The Bowling Green Fountain in New York was a monument of bad taste, built by Aaron P. Price, master-mason for the contractor, Assistant Alderman Pettigrew. It was first exhibited on July 4, 1843, illuminated by sixteen bat wing gas lights. It is described in the New York Herald of the sixth, and there is a woodcut in the New World, June 17, 1843. Poe ridiculed it in the first letter of Doings of Gotham, published in the Columbia Spy, May 18, 1844; and again in a review of George Jones’s Ancient America in the Aristidean for March 1845. The Capitol at Washington is minutely described in a plate article, unsigned, in Burton’s, November 1839, which I now (December 12, 1958) assign to Poe on the strength of the letter to Burton, June 1, 1840, and this passage in “Some Words with a Mummy.” [page 1201:]

35.  Aznac is purely imaginary, but the description of Karnak is factual.

36.  With the foregoing paragraphs, compare the Westminster Review, pp. 32-33:

They possessed the art of tempering copper tools so as to cut the hardest granite with the most minute and brilliant precision. This art we have lost . . . our tools would not cut such stone with the precision of outline which the inscriptions retain to the present day. Again, what mechanical means had they to raise and fix the enormous imposts on the lintels of their temples as at Karnac? . . . That they were familiar with the principle of Artesian wells, has been lately proved by engineering investigations carried on while boring for water in the Great Oasis. That they were acquainted with the principle of the railroad is obvious, that is to say, they had artificial causeways, levelled, direct, and grooved (the grooves being anointed with oil), for the conveyance from great distances of enormous blocks of stone, entire stone temples, and colossal statues half the height of the monument. Remnants of iron, it is said, have been found in these grooves. Finally, M. Arago has argued that they not only possessed a knowledge of steam power . . . but that the modern steam engine is derived through Solomon de Caus, the predecessor of Worcester, from the invention of Hero, the Egyptian engineer.

37.  The Dial was the chief organ of the Transcendentalists; for other criticisms of Progress, see “Never Bet the Devil Your Head,” and “The Colloquy of Monos and Una.”

38.  See a reference to the tyrant “Mob” in “Mellonta Tauta.”

39.  See n. 36. Hero of Alexandria (circa 170 B.C.) described his machine in his Pneumatica; Solomon de Caus planned an engine in 1615; he was preceded by Giambattista della Porta, in 1601.

40.  Brandreth’s Pills were widely advertised; they are also mentioned in “How to Write a Blackwood Article,” where see n. 17.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 1176:]

*  See Lucille King, Texas Studies in English (1930), 10:134f; she presents an illuminating array of parallel passages. [For a later discussion see B. Pollin, “Poe’s ‘Some Words with a Mummy’ Reconsidered,” Emerson Society Quarterly, Fall 1970, with additional information about The Mummy, a play Poe may have seen.]

  See Agnes M. Bondurant, Poe’s Richmond (1942), p. 142. Admission was twenty-five cents, and a season ticket was fifty cents. I have a pamphlet of four pages, “E. Conrad, printer,” issued by the exhibitors, which says the mummy, in two sarcophagi, came from a catacomb near Thebes.

  Recherches sur l’origine des découvertes attribuées aux moderns (1766).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 1177:]

§  Still another source was suggested by John Nichol, in his article on Henry Glassford Bell in the Dictionary of National Biography, as a story called “The Living Mummy” in Bell’s My Old Portfolio (1832). Nichol suggested a highly probable source for “Morella” in another of Bell’s stories, but resemblances between Bell’s and Poe’s mummies are negligible. Both tales involve catalepsy; but Poe’s is about an Egyptian, who was embalmed alive and revived; Bell’s about a Dutchman about to be embalmed, who regained consciousness just in time to escape certain death. Poe shows no acquaintance with a once well-known novel called The Mummy by Mrs. Jane Webb Loudon (London, 1827). The notion of deliberately embalming a live person has not been found prior to Poe’s tale.

 


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p. 1185 with a bit of / wth a bit of


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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) (Some Words with a Mummy)