Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “A Charlatan,” Alexander’s Weekly Messenger, vol. 4, no. 18, April 29, 1840, p. 2, col. 4-5


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[page 2, column 4, continued:]

A CHARLATAN!

Weather Prophet, Star Reader, & Fortune Teller.

A more signal rebuke of impudent presumption has seldom been witnessed than in the instance of the Charlatan Hague, who, for some months, has been laboring to impose his “predictions of the weather” upon the community. Professing to be able to “read the stars” and divine future events, he has published a pamphlet of trash, which we are sorry to see noticed by any person of the slightest pretension to intelligence or discernment. That it has so been noticed, and above all, that it is made a means of aiding the puerile imposition of “fortune telling,” are the only reasons why the impostor meets any other than silent contempt.

This Hague, then, is a “fortune teller,” one of that hopeful class who get their living by their impositions. His fortune telling powers, are, we suppose, equal to his capacity for predicting the state of the weather, and how great that is we shall presently make manifest. It is, perhaps, not a matter to be treated seriously, especially since the almanac makers, after long and ample experience, have generally relinquished this weather prediction as being utterly unworthy of credence. But Mr. Hague takes up the cast-off trade and attempts to make a fortune-telling profit out of it, with what success let his numerous blunders for March explain.

A friend who cut out his “predictions” and took the trouble of marking them day by day, exhibits the following string of blunders. It is really a matter of no little merriment how the fellow could possibly miss hitting the mark so constantly. Let him, in his next attempt, after manufacturing his impositions, reverse the whole mass and publish precisely the opposite of his predictions. He will then be quite as correct and possibly a little more so.

March 1st, was to have been “blustering, boisterous, frosty, and like a lion.” Instead of which it “roared me like a sucking dove,” and was most delightfully mild and provokingly warm.

March 2d. “High winds and extremely severe weather” was the sage prediction, instead of which mild airs puffed their pleasant and really warm contradictions flat in the face of Mr. Hague’s prophecy.

March 3d. Ditto with the preceding, and as palpably contradicted.

March 4th, was to have been “very cold with heavy falls of snow,” but the weather obstinately persisted in not getting very cold, while the entire absence of a particle of snow utterly confounded the quack predictions.

March 5, there was snow predicted, but none came; it was also to have been cold, but precisely the reverse happened to be the case.

March 6 and 7. After the predicted fall of snow — which said snow did not come — we were to have had the weather milder and warmer, when the very opposite was the fact. But the most thorough and mortifying rebuke which this arrant Charlatan could possible experience happened on

March 8. After most falsely predicting that the preceding day was to be milder and fairer, he says — the 8th will be still clearer and warmer, i.e. the 6th warm, the 7th warmer, and the 8th still warmer — instead of which, the United States Gazette says — ”It was so cold on the morning of the 8th that the mercury sank to 22 deg.” To make this failure still more signal, the sage farther predicted “a threatening sky, with large white clouds and heavy masses of condensed vapors,” when, in fact, there was not a cloud to be seen, and it was actually as clear as a bell all day.

March 9. We were to have had “hail and rain, accompanied with lightning and thunder,” instead of which there was not a particle of either to be seen or heard of.

March 10. A damp atmosphere, and rain, were predicted, but verified by no such thing. It was not damp at all, and not a particle of rain fell.

March 11. — “Blustering weather,” “heavy rains,” “unpleasant,” &c., were the predictions put forth with all the gravity and confidence that impudence could assume for this day, and just as [column 5:] positively contradicted. The weather having been on that day cool, fine, and pleasant.

March 12. — “The air gets warmer.” True. This wonderful prophet happens to hit it this once. Let him have the credit of his amazing sagacity.

March 13. — ”More settled and pleasant.” Instead of which, we had a slight sprinkle of snow, which said snow was not predicted. The weather was not more pleasant, though fair enough for the season.

March 14. — “Fine,” “night brings a change” — a small mistake! all the change commencing long before night. But what change, whether colder or warmer, or wet or dry, is not said.

March 15. — ”An overcast sky,” is all he ventures on. The twenty-four hours commenced with a snow storm, which was not predicted, and the balance was made up of a fair proportion of clouds and sunshine.

March 16. — A most laughable budget of blunders verified this day’s predictions. “Frost” and “fogs,” and “sleet and cold rains in abundance,” were to have come, when actually nothing of the kind happened. Opposite this batch of stupidity we find marked an appropriate and emphatic “Bah!”

March 17. — Equally stupid and false is the prediction of “sleety,” “wintery weather” for St. Patrick’s day. There was nothing of the kind; not a particle of aught like sleet or winter; and so with

March 18. — Which our prophet is “werry” funny about; but the “bluster” he predicted did not happen to take place, to his great chagrin, no doubt.

March 19. — Completes the climax. Impudence and absurdity need go no farther. We have this day “fine, pleasant weather” distinctly foretold, when as if signally to rebuke this silly falsifier, the rain came down incessantly all day, thoroughly drenching all the prophet’s pretensions, giving him very much the appearance of a drowned rat.

But we have no patience to follow out the track of this trash maker to the end. Those who may take the trouble will find it “so forth and so on” to the end of the chapter. Blunder upon blunder marks the entire catalogue. This is a mere matter of course with all impostors, but those who are credulous or weak enough to suffer themselves to be imposed upon, may easily verify a few odd days. This can be done by stringing a bunch of days together and giving a general mixing up, making a lump job of it, like some sage Almanac maker who commences at the top and running down the whole page with “about these days expect a little changeable weather,” or something of that sort. Or those who are particularly anxious to help out the predictions, may take the little end of any day in the month and give the complexion of its half hour or so, as a complete and perfect verification of that day’s prophecy. Or by claiming rain somewhere else when there happens to be none here, and sunshine there, when it happens to be otherwise here. This is a singularly convenient process, by the aid of which, you can have it rain or dry, clouds or sunshine, and blow hot or cold, with the same breath, ad libitum et infinitum.

 


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Notes:

This item was first attributed to Poe by Clarence S. Brigham in Edgar Allan Poe’s Contributions to Alexander’s Weekly Messenger, 1943, pp. 76-80.

 

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[S:1 - AWM, 1840] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Misc. - A Charlatan