Text: Burton R. Pollin (and E. A. Poe), “Marginalia - part 04,” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. II: The Brevities (1985), pp. 236-252 (This material is protected by copyright)


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[page 236:]

INSTALLMENT IV

Godey’s Magazine and Lady’s Book

September 1845 XXXI, 120-23

MARGINAL NOTES. — NO. II.

By Edgar A. Poe.

[12 items, nos. 135-146]

  * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  

Marginalia 135

Words — printed ones especially — are murderous things. Keats did (or did not) die of a criticism, Cromwell of Titus’ pamphlet “Killing no Murder,” and Montfleury perished of the “Andromache.” The author of the “Parnasse Réformé” makes him thus speak in Hades — “L‘homme donc qui voudrait savoir ce dont je suis mort, qu‘il ne demande pas s‘il fut de fièvre ou de podagre ou d‘autre chose, mais qu‘il entende que ce fût de L‘Andromache.” As for myself, I am fast dying of the “Sartor Resartus.”

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Note: Save for the reference to Cromwell and the pamphlet and to “Sartor Resartus” this item repeats closely the beginning of the “Duc de L‘Omelette” (1832; rev. in subsequent reprints). Poe derived the Montfleury passage from Disraeli’s CL, the article on “Tragic Actors” (1835 ed., 2.197), back-translating the English there into his own faulty French (well explicated in S. Levine’s Short Fiction, pp. 425-426).The SLM 2/36 variant of “Duc de L‘Omelette” uses Disraeli’s English, which may almost serve to translate this: “The man then who would know of what I died, let him not ask if it were of the fever, the dropsy, or the gout; but let him know that it was of “The Andromache!” (italics and the in the original). Gabriel Guéret (1641-88) in his 1668 text (pp. 74-75) differs in his tenses and in using Thydropsie, ou de la goutte” (see Levine, p. 426). Disraeli clarifies the cause of the citation, that Zacharie Jacob Montfleury (1600-1667) “died of the violent efforts he made in [page 237:] representing Orestes in the Andromache of Racine,” dating from 1667.

John Wilson Croker’s savage “criticism” of Keats’ poetry in the Quarterly Review of 4/18 scarcely led to the tubercular poet’s life being “snuffed out” as Byron said in Don Juan and as Poe now acknowledges in his alternative: “or did not,” differing from his tale passage.

Cromwell was said to have lost not his life but his peace of mind upon reading the pamphlet of 1657 Killing not Murder . . . to deter and prevent Single Persons . . . from Usurping supreme Power (inviting the assassination of Cromwell by “Allen Williams”), and once attributed to the wily politician Silas (“Silius”) Titus (1623?-1704). But see C. H. Firth, English historical review, 1902, 17.311, for the argument that Col. Edward Sexby (d. 1658 in the Tower) wrote the substance and that Titus wrote the dedication, supplied learned quotations and corrected the style. See also DNB for Sexby. See also David Masson, John Milton (1877), 5.141-42, for the claim of authorship after the death of Sexby, the real author.

For other unflattering references to Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) and his Sartor Resartus of 1833-34, 1836 (Boston), perhaps a stimulus for “Devil in the Belfry,” q. v. in TOM 363, see PD 17 and the present index under “Carlyle.”

Marginalia 136

Since it has become fashionable to trundle houses about the streets, should there not be some remodeling of the legal definition of reality, as “that which is permanent, fixed and immoveable, that cannot be carried out of its place?” According to this, a house is by no means real estate.

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Note: Aside from the house-moving fashion of his day, Horace B. Wallace’s novel Stanley is the verbal source of part of this article, with interwoven word plays. Wallace (known only as “Landor”) has a character assert, of Daniel Webster: “What a towering monument of mind is he! He may be termed a real statesman, according to the legal definition of the realty — permanent, fixed and immoveable, which cannot be carried out of its place“’ (1.234). Wallace, a skilled, learned lawyer, knows well that into the 1840s the noun could be spelled with or without an “i” as the OED indicates, citing Coke for 1628, Phillips for 1706, and Bouvier’s Law Dictionary for 1845-56. Surely Poe knew this interchangeability of “realty” and “reality” in this paradoxical little article. Needless to say — according to his source and legal usage, the spelling “reality” in the text is not a typographical error. [page 238:]

Marginalia 137

Voltaire, in his preface to “Brutus,” actually boasts of having introduced the Roman senate on the stage in red mantles.

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Note: This is one sentence from the paragraph comprising Pin 118 (q. v.), which was bodily taken from Schlegel’s Dramatic Literature.

Marginalia 138

One of the most singular pieces of literary Mosaic(a) is Mr. Longfellow’s “Midnight Mass for the Dying Year.” The general idea and manner are from Tennyson’s “Death of the Old Year,” several of the most prominent points are from the death scene of Cordelia in “Lear,” and the line about the “hooded friars” is from the “Comus” of Milton.(b)

Some approach to this patchwork may be found in these lines from Tasso —(c)

”Giace 1’alta Cartago: à pena i segni

De l’alte sui ruine il lido serba:

Muoino le citta, muoino i regni;

Copre i fasti e le pompe arena et herba:

E l’huom d‘esser mortal per the si sdegni.”

This is entirely made up from Lucan and Sulpicius. The former says of Troy —

Iam tota teguntur

Pergama dumetis: etiam perire ruinae.”

Sulpicius, in a letter to Cicero, says of Megara, Egina and Corinth “Hem! nos homunculi indignamur si quit nostrum intenit, quorum vita brevior esse debet, cum uno loco tot oppidorum cadavera projecta jaceant.”

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Mosaic) a. For Poe’s extended etymological and philosophical explication of “mosaic,” derived from Stanley, see M 239. For errors left in the Italian see my Intro., “Typographical Variants,” under Pin 105.

Milton) b. Poe had extensively made the comparison of the two poems by Longfellow and Tennyson in the BGM of 2/40 (H 10.76-80) and the 3/29/45 BJ (H 12.89-93), admitting however that “nothing of a visible or palpable nature” is taken from Tennyson’s poem; yet the “conception” of the Old Year as a dying old man and the “manner” of execution constitute plagiarism. What is left, “is made up mosaically, from the death scene of Cordelia, in Lear” (12.93), although he forgets that this is off stage. He also ignores Longfellow’s using (st. 5) the king’s name as a guidepost to his figures of speech and language in several stanzas. The line, “And the hooded clouds, like friars,” came from the [page 239:] universally known: “When the gray-hooded Ev‘n / Like a sad votarist in Palmer’s weed / Rose.” (Gomus, 11. 187-189)

Tasso) c. The entire “patchwork” traced here first occurs in Pin 105, where it is derived by Poe, unacknowledged, from Dominique Bouhours, La Maniêre de bien penser.

Marginalia 139A

A few nuts from memory for Outis.* Cary, in his “Dante,” says —

“And pilgrim newly on his road, with love

Thrills if he hear the vesper bell from far

That seems to mourn for the expiring day.”

Gray says —

“The curfew tolls the knell of parting day.”

————

Milton says —

“—— forget thyself to marble.”

Pope says —

“I have not yet forgot myself to stone.”

————

Blair says —

“—— its visits,

Like those of angels, short and far between.”

Campbell says —

“Like angel visits, few and far between.”

————

Butler says —

“Each window a pillory appears,

With heads thrust through nailed by the ears.”

Young says —

“An opera, like a pillory, may be said

To nail our ears down and expose our head.”

————

Young says —

“Man wants but little, nor that little long.”

Goldsmith says —

“Man wants but little here below,

Nor wants that little long.” [page 240:]

————

Milton says —

“ —— when the scourge

Inexorably and the torturing hour

Call us to penance.”

Gray says —

“Thou tamer of the human breast,

Whose iron scourge and torturing hour The bad affright.”

————

Butler says —

“This hairy meteor did announce

The fall of sceptres and of crowns.”

Gray says —

“Loose his beard and hoary hair

Streamed like a meteor to the troubled air.”

————

Dryden says —

“David for him his tuneful harp had strung,

And heaven had wanted one immortal song.”

Pope says —

“Friend of my life, which did not you prolong,

The world had wanted many an idle song.”

————

Boileau says —

“En vain contre Le Cid un ministre se ligue,

Tout Paris pour Chimene a les yeux de Rodrigue.”

Tickell says —

“While the charmed reader with thy thought complies,

And views thy Rosamond with Henry’s eyes.”

————

Lucretius says —

“ —— terras —

Una dies dabit exitio.”

Ovid says —

“Carmine sublimis tunc sunt peritura Lucreti

Exitio terras cum dabit una dies.” [page 241:]

————

Freneau says —

“The hunter and the deer a shade.”

Campbell says the same identically.

Marginalia 139B

I would have no difficulty in filling two ordinary novel volumes with just such concise parallels as these. Nevertheless, I am clearly of opinion that of one hundred plagiarisms of this character, seventy-five would be, not accidental, but unintentional. The poetic sentiment implies an abnormally keen appreciation of poetic excellence, with an unconscious assimilation of it into the poetic entity, so that an admired passage, being forgotten and afterwards reviving through an exceedingly shadowy train of association, is supposed by the plagiarizing poet to be really the coinage of his own brain.(a) An uncharitable world, however, will never be brought to understand all this, and the poet who commits a plagiarism is, if not criminal, at least unlucky; and equally in either case does critical justice require the right of property to be traced home. Of two persons, one is to suffer — it matters not what — and there can be no question as to who should be the sufferer.

Marginalia 139C

The question of international copyright has been overloaded with words. The right of property in a literary work is disputed merely for the sake of disputation, and no man should be at the trouble of arguing the point. Those who deny it, have made up their minds to deny every thing tending to further the law in contemplation. Nor is the question of expediency in any respect relevant. Expediency is only to be discussed where no rights interfere. It would no doubt be very expedient in any poor man to pick the pocket of his wealthy neighbour, (and as the poor are the majority the case is precisely parallel to the copyright case;) but what would the rich think if expediency were permitted to overrule their right?(b)

But even the expediency is untenable, grossly so.(c) The immediate advantage arising to the pockets of our people, in the existing condition of things, is no doubt sufficiently plain. We get more reading for less money than if the international law existed; but the remoter disadvantages are of infinitely greater weight. In brief, they are these: First, we have injury to our national literature by repressing the efforts of our men of genius; for genius, as a general rule, is poor in worldly goods(d) and cannot write for nothing. Our genius being thus repressed, we are [page 242:] written at only by our “gentlemen of elegant leisure,” and mere gentlemen of elegant leisure have been noted, time out of mind, for the insipidity of their productions.(e) In general, too, they are obstinately conservative and this feeling leads them into imitation of foreign, more especially of British models. This is one main source of the imitativeness with which, as a people, we have been justly charged, although the first cause is to be found in our position as a colony. Colonies have always naturally aped the mother land.

In the second place, irreparable ill is wrought by the almost exclusive dissemination among us of foreign — that is to say, of monarchical or aristocratical sentiment in foreign books; nor is this sentiment less fatal to democracy because it reaches the people themselves directly in the gilded pill of the poem or the novel.

We have next to consider the impolicy of our committing, in the national character, an open and continuous wrong on the frivolous pretext of its benefiting ourselves.

The last and by far the most important consideration of all, however, is that sense of insult and injury aroused in the whole active intellect of the world, the bitter and fatal resentment excited in the universal heart of literature — a resentment which will not and which cannot make nice distinctions between the temporary perpetrators of the wrong and that democracy in general which permits its perpetration. The autorial body is the most autocratic on the face of the earth.(f) How, then, can those institutions even hope to be safe which systematically persist in trampling it under foot?(g)

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(139A)

* Note: Poe starts his list of borrowings with a ref. to “Outis,” or “Nobody” in Greek, the name signed to a defense of Longfellow in the Weekly Mirror of 3/8/45 (pp. 346-47) which led to the “Longfellow War,” as termed by Harrison in his gathering of Poe’s articles (H 12.41-106). That Poe himself was “Outis,” intending to “start a bobbery” at the start of his connection with the BJ is the belief of TOM and many others (see Poems 557n5; conversely, see Quinn, p. 454). See M 198 for another ref. to “Outis.”

The whole of section A of M 139 consists of parallel passages or “borrowings” noted in the Pinakidia. The two partners are given with a slash, followed by the number of the Pinakidia, in the order of their occurrence: Cary / Gray: 33; Milton / Pope: 36; Blair / Campbell: 38; Butler / Young: 38; Young / Goldsmith: 40; Milton / Gray: 92; Butler / Gray: 93; Dryden / Pope: 96; Boileau / Tickell: 97; Lucretius / Ovid: 164; Freneau / Campbell: 4.

(139B)

brain) a. In several passages Poe offers this excuse for the plagiarizing poet, without tempering the customary savagery of his attack [page 243:] against the offender. Implicitly he blames him for not being fully aware of the sources of the echoes and parallels of which he is accused. In his “Literati” sketch of James Aldrich, for example, in the 7/46 Godey’s (H 15.62) we find this sentence repeated, with slight changes (“brain” becomes “soul”). Poe drives the idea further into: “For the most frequent and palpable plagiarism” go to “the works of the most eminent poets.”

(139C)

right) b. These last two parts of the total article, M 139, are entirely derived from Poe’s series of editorial-articles in the New York Evening Mirror on which Poe was a sub-editor or “mechanical paragraphist” as Willis termed him from 10/44 to 2/26/45. These articles were a set of four on “Pay of American Authors” on 1/24, 25, 27, and 31/45. The first para. is an adaptation of the first of these articles. The 1850 ed. drops “and” in sentence 6: “neighbor, (as. . . .”

grossly so) c. The last four paras. of this article are very closely adapted from the 1/31/45 editorial, save that the very last sentence comes from the last one of 1/25: “One thing is certain — the institutions are not safe which persist in insulting them.”

worldly goods) d. This phrase comes from the Book of Common Prayer: Solemnization of Marriage: “With all my worldly goods I thee endow.”

productions) e. The presumably quoted phrase is ascribed to Griswold’s PPA in the 3/43 Graham’s sketch of Thomas Ward or “Flaccus” (H 11.160) and in the “Literati” sketch of Henry Cary (H 15.68), but, oddly enough, it represents nothing specific stated by Griswold, merely Poe’s bitter inference of a generalized “toadysim” in RWG of inferior, literary amateurs of wealth and social standing, such men as Ward and Cary. RWG’s headnotes or comments provide Poe’s unconscious or deliberate “quotation”: e.g., Thomas Ward’s “father. . . is one of the oldest, wealthiest . . . citizens of Newark. . . . His circumstances permitting him. . . the more congenial pursuits of literature and general knowledge” (PPA, 1842, p. 292). Concerning James A. Hillhouse: “Literature . . . was merely the solace and delight of his leisure moments” (p. 81). About William G. Simms: “He is a fine specimen of the true southern gentleman” (p. 303). About George Boker, who entered the anthology in the 1847 edition: “After travelling. . . he settled to devote a life of opulent leisure to the cultivation of letters and to the enjoyment of the liberal arts and of society” (p. 587, ed. of 1856). The phrase is also “quoted” without RWG’s name in the Evening Mirror 1/31/45 source-text.

earth) f. The term “autorial” was a coinage of Poe’s, which took the place of the then non-existent “auctorial” (the now common “authorial” is given only 1796 and 1816 instances before Poe’s day in the OED). In the dozen instances in Poe’s works, there is evidence of the generally honorific connotation that Poe as author wished to attach to it (see my study on the word in PS, 1977, 10.15-18). But it is hard to [page 244:] reconcile Poe’s plea for redress of the grievances of authors against publishers who could publish foreign books with his imputation of “autocratic” force.

The last phrase can be ascribed either to Genesis 4:14: driven . . . from the face of the earth or Genesis 6:1: multiply on the face of the earth.

foot) g. This comes from Matthew 7:6: Neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet.

Marginalia 140

The conclusion of the Proem in Mr. Longfellow’s late “Waif” is exceedingly beautiful.(a) The whole poem is remarkable in this, that one of its principal excellences arises from what is, generically, a demerit. No error, for example, is more certainly fatal in poetry than defective rhythm; but here the slipshodiness is so thoroughly in unison with the nonchalant air of the thoughts — which, again, are so capitally applicable to the thing done (a mere introduction of other people’s fancies) — that the effect of the looseness of rhythm becomes palpable, and we see at once that here is a case in which to be correct would be inartistic. Here are three of the quatrains —

“I see the lights of the village

Gleam through the rain and the mist,

And a feeling of sadness comes over me

That my soul cannot resist —

 

“A feeling of sadness and longing

That is not akin to pain,

And resembles sorrow only

As the mists resemble the rain.

 

“And the night shall be filled with music,

And the cares that infest the day

Shall fold their tents like the Arabs,

And as silently steal away.”

Now these lines are not to be scanned. They are referable to no true p[r]inciples of rhythm. The general idea is that of a succession of anapæsts; yet not only is this idea confounded with that of dactyls, but this succession is improperly interrupted at all points — improperly, because by unequivalent feet. The partial prosaicism thus brought about, however, (without any interference with the mere melody,) becomes a beauty solely through the nicety of its adaptation to the tone of the poem, [page 245:] and of this tone, again, to the matter in hand. In his keen sense of this adaptation, (which conveys the notion of what is vaguely termed “ease,”) the reader so far loses sight of the rhythmical imperfection that he can be convinced of its existence only by treating in the same rhythm (or, rather, lack of rhythm) a subject of different tone — a subject in which decision shall take the place of nonchalance.(b)

Now, undoubtedly, I intend all this as complimentary to Mr. Longfellow; but it was for the utterance of these very opinions in the “New York Mirror” that I was accused, by some of the poet’s friends, of inditing what they think proper to call “strictures” on the author of “Outre-Mer.”

————

beautiful) a. Almost this entire article is taken from Poe’s essay on “Longfellow’s Waif” (unsigned) in the Evening Mirror of 1/13/45 (para. 2 ff.), with a few words and phrases changed (see last sentence of this para.) Poe’s apparent coinage of “slipshodiness” (see PCW 37) is spelled “slip-shod-iness” and “to be scanned” (right after the quoted poem) is expressed by “scansible,” a useful coinage by Poe. In the penultimate para. Poe adds here “a subject. . . nonchalance.” as well as the final tongue-in-cheek para. In the Mirror original Poe wrote: “The poetic beauty of the passages italicised will enchant all who read.” The stanzas quoted from “The Day is done” are 2, 3, and 11.

nonchalance) b. Poe’s theory of “equivalence” in poetic feet is presented in “The Rationale of Verse” which was developed from his 1841 Pioneer essay “Notes on English Verse” (see H 15.218-228 for the relevant section of the former). It has not found critical favor, and his charge against Longfellow here seems arbitrary. The analysis suggested by Poe at the end, as an evaluative application, is utterly impracticable. Poe’s word “prosaicism” was so unusual as to warrant calling it his coinage, since the OED cites only an 1804 instance by Anna Seward before this use. Compare his coinage of “unprosaicalness” for M 218 (para. 1).

Marginalia 141

When we attend less to “authority” and more to principles, when we look less at merit and more at demerit, (instead of the converse, as some persons suggest,) we shall then be better critics than we are. We must neglect our models and study our capabilities. The mad eulogies on what occasionally has, in letters, been well done, spring from our imperfect comprehension of what it is possible for us to do better. “A man who has never seen the sun,” says Calderon, “cannot be blamed for thinking that no glory can exceed that of the moon; a man who has seen [page 246:] neither moon nor sun, cannot be blamed for expatiating on the incomparable effulgence of the morning star.” Now, it is the business of the critic so to soar that he shall see the sun, even although its orb be far below the ordinary horizon.

————

Note: The quotation, referring to one of the plays of Pedro Calder6n de la Barca (1600-1681), the great Spanish poet and playwright, is taken with changes from Thomas B. Macaulay’s 4/42 review in the Edinburgh Review of Carlyle’s Frederick the Great, reprinted in Lord Macaulay’s Essays (L., 1886), p. 663, in which he deprecated Frederick’s admiration of Voltaire on grounds of his ignorance of classic tongues and truly great books:

“A man who has never seen the sun,” says Calderon, in one of his charming comedies, “cannot be blamed for thinking that no glory can exceed that of the moon. A man who has seen neither moon nor sun, cannot be blamed for talking of the unrivalled brightness of the morning star.”

Macaulay is surely most freely utilizing a speech from one of Calderón’s plays, such as El medico de su honra, 2.520-534. For other Calderón references in Poe see H 10.116; 13.43, 70.

Marginalia 142

In the sweet “Lily of Nithsdale,” we read —

She’s gane to dwell in heaven, my lassie —

She’s gane to dwell in heaven; —

Ye‘re owre pure, quo’ the voice of God,

For dwelling out o’ heaven.(a)

The owre and the o’ of the two last verses should be Anglicized. The Deity, at least, should be supposed to speak so as to be understood — although I am aware that a folio has been written to demonstrate broad Scotch as the language of Adam and Eve in Paradise.(b)

————

heaven) a. This is one of the stanzas in a poem given as anonymous by Longfellow in his anthology The Waif, A Collection of Poems (Cambridge, Mass., 1845, copyright 1844), pp. 53-54, reviewed by Poe in the Evening Mirror of 1/14/45 (see M 140). Clearly Longfellow was unaware that the author Allan Cunningham (1784-1842) had been identified in Blackwood’s, 12/1819, when a selection of Robert H. Cromek’s Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Song (1810) was published in the journal (6.314-321). Cunningham had edited Burns and Songs of Scotland and often issued “dialect ballads of his own composition” as folk songs (Baugh, Literary History, 1260n27). Poe is surely citing Longfellow’s reprint in [page 247:] both texts, with one amusing change — a “correction” of “owre” in the Mirror to “owre” here and below, in his discussion, although “owre” is good Scots for “over” or “too.” (Cunningham also spells it “dwell,” ignored by Longfellow and Poe.) One other change by Poe from his Mirror text is the beginning of the para.: “The commencement of the ‘Lily of Nithsdale’ is exquisite.” This witness to Poe’s high opinion of the poem makes it plausible that Poe bore traces in his creative mind of the whole poem, given by Longfellow, when he began working out “Annabel Lee” in 1849. TOM has comprehensively given the sources for major themes and for the language, in Poems (pp. 468-75), citing Poe’s own Tamerlane [A], 11. 112-113, as source for the envy or love of the angels who sent the “chilling and killing. . . wind.” The next two stanzas of the “Lily of Nithsdale” are perhaps more contributory: “O, what‘ll she do in heaven, my lassie? / O, what‘ll she do in heaven? / She‘ll mix her ain thoughts wi’ angels’ sangs, / And make them mair meet for heaven! / She was beloved by a‘, my lassie, / She was beloved by a‘, / But an angel fell in luve wi’ her, / An’ took her frae us a‘.” This source — strand has hitherto been ignored. (See ANQ, May 1984, Vol. 22, no. 9, for my fuller treatment.)

Paradise) b. There is little reason to single out these two words as needing “Anglicizing” but they provide a humorous transition to Poe for the rest of his article. The “folio” ref. probably comes from a bit of “filler” that Poe himself may have prepared for the SLM before his severance in 1/37, for it appeared in the 3/37 number (3.177) with the title “Language of Adam and Eve”; “James Adams, S. R. E. S., in a book entitled ‘The Pronunciation of the English Language vindicated from imputed Anomaly and Caprice, with an Appendix on the dialect of Scotland,’ seriously sets about to prove that broad Scotch was the language of Adam and Eve in Paradise.“’ Many minds had been exercised by the question of mankind’s primordial tongue. Poe surely knew a relevant passage in his favorite, Hudibras, with Zachary Grey’s annotations: “What Adam dreamt of, when his bride / Came from her closet in his side; / Whether the Devil tempted her / By a High Dutch interpreter / If either of them had a navel.” (Part 1, Canto 1, 11. 177-181). Grey annotates this: “Ben Jonson (in his Alchymist) in banter probably of Goropius Becanus, who endeavours to prove that High Dutch was the language of Adam and Eve in Paradise, introduces Surley asking Mammon the following question: “Surley. ‘Did Adam write in High Dutch?’ Mammon. ‘He did, which proves it to be the primitive tongue.“’ (London ed.,1819, 1.26). In the 3/37 New York Review, in which magazine Poe published his rev. of Stephens’ Incidents of Travel, we find Anthon’s review article on Baron de Merian’s Principe de l‘etude des langues (1.109-37) with a ref. to a theory that the “semi-universal Celtic” language was parallel to Hebrew as basic to the world’s tongue. [page 248:]

Marginalia 143

The increase, within a few years, of the magazine literature, is by no means to be regarded as indicating what some critics would suppose it to indicate — a downward tendency in American taste or in American letters. It is but a sign of the times, an indication of an era in which men are forced upon the curt, the condensed, the well-digested in place of the voluminous — in a word, upon journalism in lieu of dissertation. We need now the light artillery rather than the peace-makers of the intellect. I will not be sure that men at present think more profoundly than half a century ago, but beyond question they think with more rapidity, with more skill, with more tact, with more of method and less of excrescence in the thought. Besides all this, they have a vast increase in the thinking material; they have more facts, more to think about. For this reason, they are disposed to put the greatest amount of thought in the smallest compass and disperse it with the utmost attainable rapidity. Hence the journalism of the age; hence, in especial, magazines. Too many we cannot have, as a general proposition; but we demand that they have sufficient merit to render them noticeable in the beginning, and that they continue in existence sufficiently long to permit us a fair estimation of their value.

————

Note: This comprises the first para. of “Magazine Literature,” an article by Poe in the New York Evening Mirror of 2/12/45, in which Poe somewhat ostentatiously reviews the opening number of T. D. English’s magazine the Aristidean for which Poe was also writing. This is about half the full article, and it is almost verbatim, but many accidentals are changed, and a few sentences and phrases are unimportantly altered, as follows: well-digested in place of the voluminous (omitted); artillery more especially than / artillery rather than; We will not be sure 1 I will not be sure; with an infinitely more of method in the thought. I with more . . . thought; increase in what Coleridge terms the material for thinking / increase in the thinking material; facts — they have more / facts, more to think about.

The omitted Coleridge item amusingly seems to combine two books: at the end of the first para. of the Pin Intro. Poe lists likely sources for the paras. in Lacon, including William Burdon’s Materials for Thinking (1810, 5 eds. by 1820). In his 1/18/45, BJ sketch of N. P. Willis, Poe cites from Coleridge’s Aids to Reflection (1825) on the “Fancy.” Clearly he has mixed up the two books by Burdon and Coleridge in this omitted reference.

In the second sentence, Poe is alluding to Matthew 16:3: “Can ye not discern the signs of the times?” and in the next sentence, Matthew 5:6: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

See M 182 (taken from BJ of 3/1/45) which repeats the general topic, using some of the same language. [page 249:]

Marginalia 144

Jack Birkenhead, apud Bishop Sprat, says that “a great wit’s great work is to refuse.” The apothegm must be swallowed cum grano salis. His greatest work is to originate no matter that shall require refusal.

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Note: In the original manuscipt [[manuscript]] in the Dreer Collection of the Penn. Historical Society, this is marked “out” but it was nevertheless printed in Godey’s and retained thus in Griswold’s edition, save for the change of “apothegm” to “apophthegm.” The source is Wallace’s Stanley (1.111) — a dialogue concerning the deplorable Greek tendency to attempt “totality” in the arts, as in the coloring of statues and the dancing of odes. “They desiderated all that the genius could do in creation, rather than all that the taste would admire in contemplation; . . . not always acting on that fine critical principle of Jack Birkenhead’s,’ which Bishop Sprat has preserved, ‘that a great wit’s great work is to refuse. . . . No man. . .can fully taste one kind of pleasure while another is at hand to distract the perception.” Sir John Birkenhead (1616-79) was editor and chiefly wrote the royalist weekly Mercurius Aulicus at Oxford, was a member of the Royal Society, served the government, and wrote satirical poems. Thomas Sprat (1635-1713), bishop of Rochester and dean of Westminster, was prominent in the Royal Society, in the literary life of the period, and was noted for his fine prose style in sermons.

Marginalia 145

Scott, in his “Presbyterian Eloquence,” speaks of “that ancient fable, not much known,” in which a trial of skill in singing being agreed upon between the cuckoo and the nightingale, the ass was chosen umpire. When each bird had done his best, the umpire declared that the nightingale sang extremely well, but that “for a good plain song give him the cuckoo.”(a)

The judge with the long ears, in this case, is a fine type of the tribe of critics who insist upon what they call “quietude” as the supreme literary excellence — gentlemen who rail at Tennyson and elevate Addison into apotheosis.(b) By the way, the following passage from Sterne’s “Letter from France,” should be adopted at once as a motto by the “Down-East Review:”(c) “As we rode along the valley, we saw a herd of asses on the top of one of the mountains. How they viewed and reviewed us!”(d)

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cuckoo) a. Poe seems to be confused about the title and author of Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence Display’d: or, the Folly of their Teaching Discover’d, from the Books, Sermons, Prayers, etc., published anonymously but with a preface signed by Jacob Curate, a pseudonym standing for Gilbert [page 250:] Crokatt and John Monro, with over 14 London editions in 1692, 1708, 1719, 1738, 1841, 1847, and other years, and sometimes wrongly attributed to Robert Calder, who may have edited some of the reprints (according to the Columbia University cataloguers). Poe’s passage, somewhat changed, can be found thus (1738 ed., p. 35): “And yet such is the Silliness of some deluded People, that they proclaim these for soulrefreshing and powerful Preachers. . . Indeed make some People Judges, we know Presbyterian Sermons will gain the Applause. I remember the old Fable of the Cuckow and the Nightingale; both contended who should sing sweetest; the Ass, because of his long Ears, is made judge; the Nightingale sung first, the Cuckow next; the Ass’s Determination was, that truly the Nightingale sung pretty well, but for a good, sweet, plain, taking Song, and a fine Note, the Cuckow sung far better.”

apotheosis) b. Literary history has not designated any school of neo-classicists who might favor Addison over Tennyson in terms of “quietude” as Poe claims. Perhaps he is implying the mysticism of “quiet-ism” in his term, although these would not accord with his two polarities. Concerning Joseph Addison (1672-1719), Poe’s views varied (as in MM 91, 158, 205) but his rules were “sleep-producing” (in M 221). Alfred Lord Tennyson was judged the greatest living poet (see MM 44, 145, 212, 213, FS 33, 35 and the many loci in PD 90).

Review) c. Down-East is used for a New Englander, especially one from Maine. Poe uses the term satirically in the Introduction to “The Folio Club” tales to refer to “Mr. Snap, the President,. . . formerly in the service of the Down-East Review” (TOM 205) and in “Never Bet the Devil”: “All that the gentleman intended . . . will be brought to light, in the ‘Dial’ or the ‘Down-Easter’ ” (TOM 622), both of which TOM thinks might refer to John Neal’s old Yankee, his journal in Portland, especially since one of his novels was The Down-Easters (1833), q. v. in TOM 206n2, 633n6. This ref., I feel, was too obscure and pointless, especially here. Playing only upon the New England aspect of the term, Poe probably alluded to the North American Review, oldest and best-known of the review-journals (especially in view of M 211, q. v.), which he particularly abominated for its tone and biases.

reviewed us) d. Poe took the Sterne quotation bodily from Wallace’s novel Stanley, 1.102, including the erroneous attribution, since it comes from Tristram Shandy, VI, 1. Poe liked it so much that he used it also in M 211 for a ref. to the North American Review (again, shall we say?) and also for his pseudonymous article, “A Reviewer Reviewed” (MS. of 1849; see TOM 1379-89), where it becomes the motto. Sterne’s text is this: “Did you think the world itself, Sir, had contained such a number of Jack Asses? — How they viewed and reviewed us as we passed over the rivulet at the bottom of that little valley! — and when we climbed over that hill . . . what a braying did they all set up together!” [page 251:]

Marginalia 146

Of Berryer, somebody says “he is the man in whose description is the greatest possible consumption of antithesis.”(a) For “description” read “lectures,” and the sentence would apply well to Hudson, the lecturer on Shakspeare. Antithesis is his end — he has no other. He does not employ it to enforce thought, but he gathers thought from all quarters with the sole view to its capacity for antithetical expression. His essays have thus only paragraphical effect; as wholes, they produce not the slightest impression. No man living could say what it is Mr. Hudson proposes to demonstrate; and if the question were propounded to Mr. H. himself, we can fancy how particularly embarrassed he would be for a reply. In the end, were he to answer honestly, he would say — “Antithesis.”(b)

As for his reading, Julius Cæsar would have said of him that he sang ill, and undoubtedly he must have “gone to the dogs” for his experience in pronouncing the r as if his throat were bored like a riflebarrel.”* (b)

* “Nec illi (Demostheni) turpe videbatur vel, optima relictis magistris, ad canes se conferre, et ab illis e(t] litene vim et naturam petere, illorumque in sonando, quod satis est, morem imitari.” — Ad Meker. de vet. Pron. Ling. Græcae.(d)

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antithesis) a. Poe derived many ideas and useful facts about French contemporaries from Robert M. Walsh’s Sketches of Conspicuous Living Characters of France (Phila., 1841), translated from Louis Léonard de Loménie, Galerie Populaire des Contemporaints, reviewed by Poe in the 4/41 Graham’s (H 10.133-39). This sentence is inaccurately cited from the sketch of André Dupin, prototype in talents of Poe’s detective: “He is the personage for whom the painters of political portraits, make the most enormous consumption of antithesis”; Poe had read carefully and used the chapter on Antoine Pierre Berryer, high official and cipher expert (see 10.136, 14.123, 134-135). Moreover, in “The American Drama” in the 8/45 American Whig Review Poe translates this very “Berryer” description into his own style of French (H 10.33). Poe used Lomenie’s aversion to antithesis also in his condemnation of Victor Hugo that absurd antithesis-hunter” (see DP 11-12).

antithesis) b. Poe’s dislike of the content and style of the Shakespeare readings and lectures of Henry Norman Hudson (1814-1886), is evinced in several of the reviews in the BJ, the last of 12/13/45 (2.359) speaking of “an absurd passion for the lower . . . too obvious species of antithesis,. . . an elocution that would disgrace a pig.” See also MM 151 and 165.

barrel) c. Perhaps Poe is alluding to Caesar’s distrust of Cassius who “hears no music” (1.2.204). Hudson, originally from Vermont, may have irritated Poe through his New England diction. Poe puns on his [page 252:] letter “r” which is called “littera canina,” enabling him here and in M 264 to make a learned allusion to the book of Adolphus Mekerchus or Adolf van Meetkerche (1528-1591), De veteri et rectae pronunhatione linguae Graecae commentarius (Bruges, 1565; enlarged, Antwerp 1576,1586; London, 1736). Poe could have remembered Bulwer’s citing Persius, Satire I, 11. 109-110: “sonat hit de nare canina / Litera,” in ch. 4 of Pelham, from which Poe took so many of the M (“Here the dog’s letter sounds from the nostril”).

Graecae) d. The title may be translated as “Commentary on the pronunciation of the ancient and unchanged language of Greece.” The footnote means: “For it did not seem shameful to him (Demosthenes) to foresake the best leaders (of society) and go to the dogs and to seek from them the force and nature of the letter and, in their sounding out, to imitate their habit.”

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - BRP2B, 1985] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe (B. R. Pollin) (Marginalia - part 04)